(CNN) – We already have our first glimpse of how the James Webb Space Telescope is changing the way people see the universe. US President Joe Biden presented one of the first images from the telescope Monday at the White House during a preview event with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
The image shows SMACS 0723, a group of galaxies that acts as a magnifying glass for the objects behind them. This is called a gravitational lensing, and this telescope has created the first deep-field view of thousands of galaxies, including the incredibly faint, ancient and distant galaxies.
According to a NASA statement, “This part of the vast universe covers a patch of sky the size of a grain of sand that a person holds on Earth at arm’s length.”
According to Nelson, “It’s the deepest picture of our universe ever taken.”
The rest of the high-resolution color images will appear for the first time as scheduled on Tuesday, July 12.
The space observatory, which launched in December, will be able to look into the atmospheres of exoplanets and observe some of the first galaxies that arose after the universe began by viewing them through infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye.
The release of the first image will highlight the scientific capabilities of the James Webb Telescope, as well as the ability of its huge gold mirror and scientific instruments to produce stunning images.
There are several events taking place during the Tuesday release of the image, and they will all be broadcast live on NASA’s website.
Opening observations from NASA Command and the James Webb Telescope Team will begin Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. ET, followed by an image release beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET. The images will be revealed one by one, and a press conference at 12:30 PM ET will provide more details.
NASA shared the first cosmic targets from the James Webb Telescope Friday, a preview of what Tuesday’s image release will include: the Carina Nebula, WASP-96b, the Southern Ring Nebula, and Stefan’s Pentagram.
Located 7,600 light-years away, the Carina Nebula is a stellar nursery, where stars are born. It is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky and is home to many stars much larger than our Sun.
The James Webb Telescope’s survey of the gas giant planet WASP-96b will be the first full-color spectrum of an exoplanet. The spectrum will include different wavelengths of light that can reveal new information about the planet, such as whether it has an atmosphere. WASP-96b was discovered in 2014, and is located 1,150 light-years from Earth. It is half the mass of Jupiter and it completes one orbit around its star every 3.4 days.
The Southern Ring Nebula, also called the Eight Bursts, is located 2,000 light-years from Earth. This large planetary nebula includes an expanding gas cloud around a dying star.
The Space Telescope’s display of the Stefan Pentagram will reveal the way galaxies interact with each other. This compact group of galaxies was first discovered in 1787, located 290 million light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus. According to a NASA statement, four of the five galaxies in the cluster are “locked up in a cosmic dance of frequent close encounters.”
The targets were chosen by an international panel, including members from NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
Looking to the future
This will be the first of many images to come from Webb, the most powerful telescope ever launched into space. The mission, which was originally expected to last 10 years, has enough redundant fuel capacity to operate for 20 years, according to NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy.
“Webb can look back in time to just after the Big Bang by looking for galaxies so far away that it took light billions of years to reach us from those galaxies,” said Jonathan Gardner, deputy principal scientist on the project. Webb at NASA, during a recent press conference. “Webb is bigger than the Hubble telescope so it can see far, far away galaxies.”
Eric Smith, Web program scientist and chief scientist for NASA’s Department of Astrophysics, said the telescope’s initial goal was to see the first stars and galaxies in the universe, and to see “the universe lights up for the first time.”
Smith has worked on the James Webb Telescope since the project began in the mid-1990s.
“The James Webb Space Telescope will give us a powerful new set of eyes to examine our universe,” Smith wrote in an update on the NASA website. “The world is about to be new again.”
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