It’s finally here: after years of waiting, the first image captured by the James Webb telescope was unveiled to the world on Monday, July 11. The sumptuous shot shows galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago.
Sneak a peek at the deepest & sharpest infrared image of the early universe ever taken—all in a day’s work for the Webb telescope. (Literally, capturing it took less than a day!) This is Webb’s first image released as we begin to #UnfoldTheUniverse: https://t.co/tlougFWg8B pic.twitter.com/Y7ebmQwT7j
—NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) July 11, 2022
An engineering gem worth 10 billion dollars (9.98 billion euros), one of James Webb’s main missions is to explore the early ages of the Universe. In astronomy, seeing far is equivalent to going back in time, the observed light having traveled for billions of years before reaching us.
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The image, which is teeming with detail, shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, at the heart of which some structures “have never been seen before”, according to NASA. The snapshot was taken in an observation time of 12.5 hours.
This first scientific and color image of James Webb marks a day “historical”, greeted President Joe Biden during the event organized for the occasion at the White House, six months after the launch into orbit of this space telescope, the most powerful ever designed. This photograph is “the deepest and clearest infrared image ever taken of the distant Universe so far”welcomed the American space agency.
Although the names of James Webb’s first five cosmic targets were announced last week, the images had so far been jealously guarded in order to create suspense.
The following images of this genuine surprise bag will be revealed during a NASA online event on Tuesday morning. They must both impress the general public with their beauty, but also demonstrate to astronomers around the world all the power of the four scientific instruments on board.
Two photos of nebulae – very photogenic and gigantic clouds of gas and dust where stars are formed – are on the program for Tuesday: the Carina Nebula, and that of the Austral Ring. Another target, Stephan’s Quintet, a group of galaxies interacting with each other.
The research work is therefore just beginning. “Researchers will soon begin to learn more about masses, ages, histories and compositions” of these galaxies, NASA concluded.