The image shows SMACS 0723, where a huge group of galaxy clusters acts as a magnifying lens for the objects behind them. This so-called gravitational lensing, and this has created the first deep web view of incredibly ancient, distant and faint galaxies.
The presentation was made at the White House during a preview event with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
According to Nelson, “It’s the deepest picture of our universe ever taken.”
Some of these distant galaxies and star clusters have never been seen before. The galaxy cluster appears as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.
According to a NASA statement, “This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky the size of a grain of sand that a person holds on Earth at arm’s length.”
The image, taken by a near-infrared webcam, consists of images taken with different wavelengths of light over a 12.5-hour period. It took weeks for the Hubble Space Telescope to capture the deepest fields.
The rest of the high-resolution color images will appear for the first time on Tuesday, July 12.
The first version of the images highlights Webb’s scientific capabilities as well as the ability of the massive golden mirror and science tools to produce stunning images.
Opening remarks by NASA leadership and the Webb team will begin Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. ET, followed by an image release that begins broadcasting at 10:30 a.m. ET. The images will be revealed one by one, and a press conference at 12:30 PM ET will provide details on them.
NASA shared Webb’s first cosmic targets on Friday, providing a teaser of what Tuesday’s image release will include: the Carinae Nebula, WASP-96b, the Southern Ring Nebula, and Stefan’s Pentagram.
Located 7,600 light-years away, the Carina Nebula is a stellar nursery, where stars are born. It is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, and is home to many stars much larger than our Sun.
Webb’s study of the gas giant planet WASP-96b will be the first full-color spectrum of an exoplanet. The spectrum will include different wavelengths of light that can reveal new information about the planet, such as whether it has an atmosphere. Discovered in 2014, WASP-96b is located 1,150 light-years from Earth. Its mass is half that of Jupiter and it completes an orbit around its star every 3.4 days.
The Southern Ring Nebula, also known as the ‘Burst Eight’, is located 2,000 light-years from Earth. This large planetary nebula includes an expanding gas cloud around a dying star.
A view of the Stefan Pentagram space telescope will reveal the way galaxies interact with each other. This compact galaxy cluster was first discovered in 1787, and is located 290 million light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus. According to a NASA statement, four of the five galaxies in the cluster are “locked up in a cosmic dance of frequent converging encounters.”
The targets were chosen by an international panel, including members from NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
I look ahead
This will be the first of many images to come from Webb, the most powerful telescope ever launched into space. The mission, which was originally expected to last 10 years, has enough spare fuel capacity to operate for 20 years, according to NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy.
“Webb can see back in time after the Big Bang by looking for galaxies so far away, that it took light several billion years to travel from those galaxies to ourselves,” said Jonathan Gardner, deputy chief scientist for NASA’s Webb Project. , during a recent press conference. “Web is larger than Hubble so it can see fainter and more distant galaxies.”
Eric Smith, Web program scientist and chief scientist for NASA’s Astrophysics Division, said the telescope’s initial goal was to see the first stars and galaxies in the universe, and to watch “the universe shine its lights for the first time.”
Smith has worked at Webb since the project began in the mid-1990s.