James Webb Space Telescope Shines Light on Universe’s Past, Illuminates Mankind’s Future
July 12, 2022 (EIRNS)—Today, July 12, saw the release of the first five science images from the James Webb Space Telescope. The space-based observatory, planned since 1995, is fully commissioned and promises to be a source of unique infrared observations for two decades or more. The complex launch and commissioning process worked flawlessly, including the deployment of the sun shield that allows JWST’s equipment to operate at the low temperatures (as low as 6° K) that they require.
The five images were released at a jubilant event streamed online from NASA’s Goddard Center, with some 150,000 live viewers on NASA TV’s YouTube channel, and with video feeds from remote audiences from across the United States and the world—Australia, India, Germany, Italy, and Canada, among other nations.
The telescope’s imaging equipment focuses on regions of the infrared spectrum, and includes both imaging and a high capacity for spectroscopy—the decomposition of light into the specific frequencies that compose it, allowing the identification of elements and even compounds from across the universe.
The first image was a deep field, similar to the famous Hubble Deep Field. It shows a wealth of galaxies and visual confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The oldest object in the image, from 13.1 billion years ago, was imaged spectroscopically, giving some idea of its elemental composition.
The second image was a visualization of spectrographic data of the atmosphere of an exoplanet. When the planet passed in front of its star, the light passing through its atmosphere was altered by that passage, and this allowed some determination of the composition of its atmosphere, which included water.
The third showed a beautiful explosion of a star, with amazing detail and in greater quality than images created by Hubble.
The fourth image showed Stephan’s Quintet of galaxies, with evidence of a black hole and of the galaxies’ interaction with each other.
The fifth and final image was of the edge of the Carina Nebula, showing the birth of stars.
These are only the first images, and show the potential the observatory has to help scientists formulate, and answer, new questions about the development of the universe and of other planetary systems. We live in a universe with limitless paradoxes and innumerable discoveries. Let us turn our sights away from war and cultural strife, to the exploration of the great unknown!
The images are available in high resolution (NIRCam is over 150 megapixels) at the NASA website: “First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope.”