President Biden will unveil the first color image of the James Webb Space Telescope at the White House on Monday, heralding the end of tests and departures and the beginning of scientific operations for the world’s most powerful space observatory.
“We’re going to give humanity a new view of the universe, one we’ve never seen before,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who will join Biden at the White House, told reporters in an introductory briefing.
“One of those images … is the deepest image of our universe ever,” he said. “And we’re just beginning to understand what Webb can and will do.”
NASA plans to release additional “first light” images on Tuesday, images designed to show the web’s ability to capture light from first-generation stars and galaxies. to chart the details of the evolution of stars, from the birth of stars to the death of a supernova; Study of the chemical composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets.
Over the past 30 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has become one of the most famousIn astronomical history, astronomers help determine the age of the universe, confirm the existence of supermassive black holes, capture the deepest images of the universe ever collected, and provide fly-over images of the class of planets in the Earth’s solar system.
But Webb, operating a few degrees above absolute zero behind a canopy the size of a tennis court, promises to push the boundaries of human knowledge even deeper with a 21.3-meter-wide segmented primary mirror capable of producing faint infrared beams of light from the age when the stars “began to shine” In the aftermath of the Big Bang.
Webb centered in a file About a million miles from Earth. Over the past six months, engineers and scientists have gone through a complex series of deployments, activations and investigations, adjusting the telescope’s focus and improving the performance of its four science instruments.
The preliminary images released on Monday and Tuesday, selected by an international team of astronomers, will prove to the world that Webb is, in fact, ready for science and is producing excellent, impressive results, said Klaus Pontopedan, Webb’s project scientist. at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
“It also highlights the breadth of science that can be done with Webb and highlights all four scientific tools,” he added. “And last but not least, to celebrate the beginning of normal scientific processes.”
Webb’s first goals for public images include:
- Carina Nebula: A massive star-forming region in the constellation Carina located 7,600 light-years from Earth, four times the size of the Orion Nebula. The Carina Nebula is home to the Milky Way’s most famous star, as well as the binary star system Eta Carinae, which includes a massive sun that is expected to explode in a supernova explosion (astronomically speaking) in the near future.
- The Southern Ring Nebula: An expanding gas cloud about half a light-year long ejected from a dying star. Stars with relatively low masses, like Earth’s sun, would end their lives by blasting their outer layers, forming so-called “planetary nebulae” as their cores slowly shrink and cool.
- Stephen’s Quintet: A group of five galaxies was discovered in the constellation of Pegasus 290 million light-years from Earth in 1877, the first compact galaxy group discovered. Four of the five galaxies are attracted together in a slow-moving merger.
- WASP-96b: An unusual exoplanet about 1,150 light-years away, about half the size of Jupiter, orbiting its sun every 3.4 days. By spectrally analyzing the light emitted by the parent star as it passes through the atmosphere of an exoplanet on its way to Earth, astronomers can discover details about its chemical makeup.
- SMACS J0723.3-7327: The combined gravitational pull of many stars in massive galaxy clusters like this can act as a powerful lens when aligned just right, amplifying the light of distant objects in the far background to allow a deeper look back by giving space and time to what might to be possible.
“The first images will include notes on a range of web science topics,” Pontopedan said. “Since the beginning of the universe, the deepest infrared picture of the universe to date. We will also see an example of how galaxies interact and grow, and how these cataclysmic collisions between galaxies lead to the process of star formation.”
“We will see some examples from the life cycle of stars, from the birth of stars, where Webb can discover new young stars emerging from the cloud of gas and dust in which they were born, to the death of stars, such as the cultivation of stellar death. The galaxy with new elements and new dust may one day become part of New planetary systems.”
Last but not least, he said, the team will display the first chemical fingerprints of an exoplanet.
One of the most amazing images from the Hubble Space Telescope was “deep field“Look at a tiny speck of seemingly empty sky over the course of 10 days in 1995. To the astonishment of professionals and the public alike, that long-exposure image revealed more than 3,000 galaxies of every shape, size and age, the oldest and most distant of all.
Subsequent Hubble Deep Fields retreated even further, seeing the faint light from galaxies that brightened within 500 million years of the Big Bang. How stars form and organize into galactic structures so quickly remains a mystery, as does the evolution of supermassive black holes in their cores.
Webb’s four instruments are expected to bring the frontiers closer to the beginning of galaxy formation. A test image of the telescope’s Canadian-made precision-guidance sensor, unoptimized for detecting extremely faint objects, has revealed thousands of galaxies.
A web look at SMACS 0723 is expected to reveal the observatory’s broad reach.
“This is just the beginning, we are just scratching the surface,” Pontopedan said. We have notes for a few days in the first pictures. Looking into the future, we have many years of observation, so we can only imagine what it will be like.”
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