NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will display its first full-color images and spectroscopy data on July 12. The largest and most complex observatory ever launched into space, it underwent a six-month preparation period before beginning its scientific work, calibrating its instruments to its space environment and aligning its mirrors.
That painstaking process, not to mention years of new technology development and mission planning, evolved into the first images and data: a demo for Webb in full swing, ready to begin his science mission and reveal the infrared world, according to NASA.
“As we come to the end of preparing this observatory for scientific research, we find ourselves on the cusp of a very exciting period of discovery about our universe. The unveiling of the first full-color images of the Web will provide a unique moment for all of us to pause,” said Eric Smith, Web program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. and marvel at a sight humanity has never seen before.” “These images will be the culmination of decades of dedication, talent and dreams, but they will also be just the beginning.”
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As the US space agency announced in a statement, defining what Webb should look at first has been a project of more than five years of development, carried out by an international consortium of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Canadian Space Agency, and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, which is home to science work and Webb mission operations.
“Our goals with the first Web images and data are to showcase the telescope’s powerful instruments and preview the upcoming science mission,” said astronomer Klaus Pontopedan, Webb project scientist at STScI. “It is sure to make a long-awaited impact on astronomers and the public.”
Once both Webb’s instruments have been calibrated and tested, and given the green light by the science and engineering teams, the first images and spectroscopic observations will be obtained. These teams will continue to follow the list of goals that have been shortlisted and ranked by an international panel to exercise Webb’s strong capabilities. The production team will then receive the data from the scientists who operate the Webb instruments and process it into images for astronomers and the public.
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After the first images are taken, Webb’s science observations will begin, to continue exploring the mission’s key science themes. Teams have already advanced, through a competitive process, for time to use the telescope, in what astronomers call the first cycle, or first year of observations. Observations are carefully timed to make the most of the telescope’s time.
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These notes represent the official start of Webb’s general scientific operations, the mission for which they were designed. Astronomers will use Webb to observe the infrared universe, analyze collected data, and publish scientific papers about their discoveries.
In addition to what has already been planned for Webb, there are unexpected discoveries that astronomers cannot anticipate. One example: in 1990, when the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, dark energy was completely unknown. It is now one of the most exciting fields of astrophysics.
With information from NASA
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