This series of images, provided by NASA on Monday, show part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, as seen by the retired Spitzer Space Telescope, left, and the new James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech, NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI via AP)
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — NASA’s new space telescope is in the testing phase, astronomers said Monday, with scientific observations expected to begin in July.
The James Webb Space Telescope has returned the latest test images from a neighboring satellite galaxy, and the results are stunning when compared to images taken by NASA’s previous infrared observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Each of the 18 sections of the new telescope’s mirror is larger than the individual section on Spitzer.
“You’re not really going to see the kind of image you’re presenting until you take it and really leave,” said Marcia Rick of the University of Arizona, chief scientist for the near-infrared webcam. “Just think about what we’ll learn.”
Launched last December, Webb is the largest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever sent into space. It will seek the light emitted by the first stars and galaxies nearly 14 billion years ago, and will keep a close eye on possible signs of life.
Scientists keep the identity of Webb’s first official target secret.
Webb, located 1 million miles (1.6 million km) from Earth, is believed to be the successor to the old Hubble Space Telescope.
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