US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris presented the world’s first full-color image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. It is an impressive depth view of particularly distant galaxies, which are distorted by galaxy clusters in the foreground. A cluster of galaxies, called SMACS 0723, can be seen with an immense amount of detail. There are thousands of galaxies billions of light years away from Earth.
The fact that Webb can make them out at all is impressive: The view corresponds to the area of a grain of sand held at arm’s length in front of your eyes, explains the US space agency NASA. The appearance of the first published Webb image is reminiscent of the best deep-field images from the Hubble Space Telescope. However, after years of working with the iconic instrument, this is one of the very first photos of a new space telescope, which is likely to exceed all expectations. Webb’s “First Deep Field” is the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the early Universe to date”.
The image was released a few hours before the presentation of the rest of the first series of images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon German time. After not only the phase before the launch of the space telescope but also the weeks that followed were nerve-wracking for those responsible, it became increasingly clear in the spring that the preparations were going better than planned.
The publication of the first scientific recordings now resembles a staging and is likely to surpass even the commissioning of the Hubble Space Telescope in terms of its significance. But that also had to struggle with technical difficulties before it only reached its full capacity after a repair mission. With the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), on the other hand, everything has been going almost perfectly so far. Only an unexpectedly violent impact of a micrometeorite at the end of May led tz to “slightly detectable effects in the data”.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is operated by the space agencies NASA, ESA and CSA and was launched on December 25th. After unfolding itself, it arrived at the Lagrange point L2 a month later. Here it looks away from the sun, earth and moon into space so that their thermal radiation does not disturb the infrared telescope. A huge protective screen blocks them. The operating temperature of the device is 40 Kelvin (-233 degrees Celsius), one instrument was even cooled down to 6.4 Kelvin or -267 degrees Celsius. Because everything went almost perfectly, especially at the start, so much fuel was saved that the space telescope should be operational for 20 years.