The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope mission today released its first full-color scientific images and spectroscopic data.
Webb, a major space observatory often presented as the successor to the very successful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is designed to answer fundamental questions about the Universe.
It honors NASA’s second administrator, James E. Webb, who headed the agency during part of the Apollo era, from February 1961 to October 1968.
With 100 times more sensitivity than Hubble, the telescope can detect infrared light generated by galaxies as they formed more than 13.5 billion years ago, in the aftermath of the Big Bang.
It will see farther into our origins — from the Universe’s first galaxies, to the birth of stars and exoplanets, to exoplanets with the potential for life. Closer to home, Webb will also look at our own Solar System.
The telescope is an incredible feat of space engineering. In order to observe at infrared wavelengths, it is kept permanently shaded from solar radiation by a giant, five-layered sunshield. At 22 x 12 m (72 x 39 feet), this is about the size of a tennis court.
The sunshield will keep the telescope in perpetual shadow for operations at minus 233 degrees Celsius (minus 387.4 degrees Fahrenheit), to prevent the telescope’s own infrared emission from overwhelming the signals from the astronomical targets.
Its mid-infrared instrument MIRI will be further cooled to minus 266 degrees Celsius (minus 446.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
Webb’s primary mirror is made of 18 hexagonal-shaped mirror segments, each 1.32 m (4.3 feet) in diameter and weighing approximately 20 kg.
The total diameter of Webb’s primary mirror spans 6.5 m (21.3 feet), which is so large that it has to be carefully folded into the rocket’s fairing for launch.
Each of the telescope’s mirrors is covered in a microscopically thin layer of gold, which optimizes them for reflecting infrared light.
The telescope also hosts a convex secondary mirror that is 0.74 m (2.4 feet) in diameter. This is the second surface the light from the cosmos hits on its route into the telescope.
Webb lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on December 25, 2021.
As the largest and most complex observatory ever launched into space, it then went through an extended period of preparation before it could begin science work.
Due to Webb’s unprecedented design and unique unfolding process post-launch, the pre-science commissioning process received lots of attention.
Remarkable images gave the public a window into the world of Webb engineers and instrument scientists as they worked to align the 18 primary mirror segments, including the telescope’s social media-ready selfie images.
The Webb team followed a carefully planned schedule for a month to produce the collection of first full-color images and spectroscopic data.
First Images from Webb:
“These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things, and remind the American people — especially our children — that there’s nothing beyond our capacity,” said President Joe Biden in remarks during a public event at the White House in Washington on July 11, 2022.
“We can see possibilities no one has ever seen before. We can go places no one has ever gone before.”
1. Galaxy Cluster SMACS J0723.3-7327:
SMACS J0723.3-7327, also known as SMACS 0723 or PSZ1 G284.97-23.69, is a massive cluster of galaxies within the southern constellation of Volans.
We’re looking back in time at this cluster as it appeared approximately 4.6 billion years ago.
Its combined mass acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying much more distant galaxies behind it.
“Webb’s First Deep Field is not only the first full-color image from the James Webb Space Telescope, it’s the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant Universe, so far,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
“This image covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. It’s just a tiny sliver of the vast Universe.”
“This mission was made possible by human ingenuity — the incredible NASA Webb team and our international partners at ESA and CSA.”
“Webb is just the start of what we can accomplish in the future when we work together for the benefit of humanity.”
2. Spectrum of Giant Exoplanet WASP-96b:
WASP-96b was discovered in 2013 by astronomers using data from the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) survey.
Located roughly 1,150 light-years away in the constellation of Phoenix, it represents a type of gas giant that has no direct analog in our Solar System.
WASP-96b orbits its 8-billion-year-old Sun-like star, WASP-96, every 3.4 days and is very hot (1,881 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1,027 degrees Celsius).
With a mass less than half that of Jupiter and a diameter 1.2 times greater, it is much puffier than any planet orbiting our Sun.
The transmission spectrum of WASP-96b, made using Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, reveals the unambiguous signature of water, indications of haze, and evidence for clouds that were thought not to exist based on prior observations.
3. Southern Ring Nebula:
The Southern Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula some 2,500 light-years away in the constellation of Vela.
Otherwise known as NGC 3132 or the Eight-Burst nebula, the object has a diameter of about 0.5 light-years.
4. Stephan’s Quintet:
Discovered by the French astronomer Édouard Stephan in 1877, the Stephan’s Quintet is a visual grouping of five galaxies in the constellation of Pegasus.
Four of the five galaxies — NGC 7317, NGC 7318A, NGC 7318B, and NGC 7319 — form a physical association: the Hickson Compact Group 92 (HCG 92).
The fifth and leftmost galaxy, NGC 7320, is well in the foreground compared with the other four.
NGC 7320 resides 40 million light-years from Earth, while the other four galaxies are about 290 million light-years away.
5. Carina Nebula:
The Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372 and Caldwell 92, is located 7,500 light-years away in the constellation of Carina.
Discovered in the 1750s by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, the nebula is a dynamic, evolving cloud of thinly spread interstellar gas and dust.
Spanning over 300 light-years, the Carina Nebula is one of the Milky Way Galaxy’s largest star-forming regions and is easily visible to the unaided eye under dark skies.
One of the nebula’s most famous denizens is the unstable, behemoth double-star system Eta Carinae.
Source link: https://www.sci.news/astronomy/webbs-first-full-color-images-10991.html