After decades of waiting, the James Webb Space Telescope is ready for use and providing the first images from the depths of the universe – a milestone.
Greenbelt – Countless people around the world have been waiting for this moment: The “James Webb” space telescope of the space organizations Nasa, Esa and CSA is finally fully operational. The first published color images already show what the most expensive and most powerful space telescope to date can do – it is exactly what was expected in advance: The “James Webb” telescope enables a completely new look into the depths of the universe.
This is already shown by the first image that the US space agency Nasa published in advance together with US President Joe Biden. The so-called “Deep Field” looks deep into the universe. Thousands of galaxies can be seen in the image – it is the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the universe so far,” according to Nasa. If you take a closer look at the numbers that accompany the picture, you could get dizzy: For the first picture, not a large part of the sky was photographed, but only a tiny section.
If you stand on earth and hold a grain of sand about an arm’s length away from you towards the sky, the grain of sand covers a section similar to that photographed by “Webb”. Hard to believe that thousands of galaxies are at home in such a small space.
“James Webb” space telescope: Nasa presents the first images from the depths of the universe
The galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 can be seen in the image, which acts as a so-called gravitational lens and enlarges the galaxies located behind it. “We look back more than 13 billion years,” said NASA boss Bill Nelson to the US President when the picture was presented. “It took more than 13 billion years to get to us the light you see in one of these little patches,” Nelson said.
In fact, what is contained in a single “Webb” picture is hard to imagine, US President Biden speaks of “incredible, it blows my mind” and Nelson puts it in a nutshell: “100 years ago we thought there was only a galaxy. Now the number of galaxies is unlimited. In our galaxy we have billions of stars, now there are billions of galaxies with billions of stars.” In fact, a large proportion of the galaxies seen in the image have never before been imaged, let alone observed by humans. So you can understand why the experienced astronaut and Nasa co-boss Pamela Melroy said the following sentence about the pictures in advance: “What I saw moved me, as a scientist, as an engineer and as a person.”
|Operator:||NASA, ESA and CSA|
|Distance to Earth:||1.5 million kilometers|
|Mirror diameter:||6.5 meters|
|Size sun shield:||21×14 meters|
Space telescope has been eagerly awaited for years
With its first image and accompanying data, the James Webb Space Telescope has already given scientists a lot of new work. Nasa boss Nelson sums it up like this: “We can answer questions that we don’t even know yet.” But the researchers were looking forward to this day and are eagerly awaiting the new data – after all, the “James Webb” telescope has already been eagerly awaited for many years. It is intended to enable astronomers to carry out completely new research. “The telescope will detect light from the first generation of galaxies that formed in the early Universe after the Big Bang and examine the atmospheres of nearby exoplanets for possible signs of habitability,” said Eric Smith, program scientist at Nasa Webb.
John Mather, Webb scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Nobel laureate, is excited about the upcoming work: “What happened after the Big Bang? How did the expanding universe cool down and produce black holes, galaxies, stars, planets and humans?” The new space telescope should help the researchers to answer such questions and look far back into the past. “We know the universe is 13.8 billion years old. We’re going back almost to the beginning,” said NASA CEO Nelson.
“James Webb” space telescope: Joe Biden speaks of a “miracle telescope”
US President Biden even speaks of a “miracle telescope” that opens “a new window into the history of our universe”. In most cases, American pathos and exaggerations are overkill—in the case of the James Webb Space Telescope, they seem appropriate. After all, it is unbelievable what the telescope has already achieved with its first images: giving the world a completely new view of the universe.
The “Webb” telescope also succeeded in doing this with the second published image. This does not directly show a celestial body, but a spectrum of the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-69 b. The Jupiter-like planet orbits its star in 3.4 days and is impossibly hot. Despite this, “Webb” has detected water vapor in its atmosphere as well as evidence of clouds and haze. Studying exoplanets is an important task for the Webb Space Telescope. In the future, in addition to exoplanets – i.e. planets outside our solar system – planets within our solar system, as well as asteroids and comets, will also be examined.
James Webb Space Telescope: Detailed and Stunning Images of the Universe
Images of the Southern Ring Nebula and the star-forming region “Carina Nebula”, which were also taken by the “Webb” telescope, show very nicely how the new space telescope differs from its “predecessor”, the “Hubble” space telescope: The resolution is significantly higher , much more detail can be seen than in the “Hubble” image. The recording of “Stephan’s Quintett” is also breathtaking. All of the images have one thing in common: in addition to the greater wealth of detail and the numerous galaxies that can suddenly be seen in the background, all of the images were taken faster than the “Hubble” images. Webb’s “Deep Field”, for example, required 12.5 hours of exposure – “Hubble” needed several more weeks for this.
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Indeed, the new James Webb Space Telescope appears to be opening a new window on the universe. It remains to be seen how research will use the telescope and what surprises the universe still has in store. (tab)