What the first images of the James Webb Space Telescope say about our universe – TechCrunch

What the first images of the James Webb Space Telescope say about our universe – TechCrunch

NASA unveiled full-color images from the $ 11 billion James Web Space Telescope (JWST) on Tuesday, marking the first of many releases from the super-powerful optical instrument. But even taken by myself, these five images mark a huge feat and mark the end of a 26-year-long process to give mankind a more detailed view of the early universe.

The photo was released today after President Joe Biden’s preliminary image was released on Monday. That shot, called “Web’s First Deep Field,” showed the cluster SMACS 0723, a massive vortex of galaxies that actually represents a slice of the universe the size of a “grain of sand at the tip of your finger at arm’s length.” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson put it live.

Today’s revelations include a galactic cluster and a black hole; The atmosphere of a distant planet; The epic death of a distant star; And a “star nursery” where the stars are born. Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, the predecessor of JWST, and all of these were known to astronomers. But because of the unprecedented sensitivity of JWST’s instruments and the ability to see objects in the infrared spectrum, we have been able to see these galactic forms more clearly than ever before.

“Oh my goodness, it works,” said Jane Rigby, the web’s operations project scientist, looking at the first focused images from the observatory. “And it works better than we thought.”

Signs of water and clouds on a lung exoplanet

James Webb Space Telescope Wasp96 b

Image Credit: NASA

The Milky Way alone contains more than 5,000 confirmed exoplanets – or planets orbiting a star other than our Sun. The existence of exoplanets raises a fundamental question: Are we alone in the universe? Indeed, the obvious goal of NASA’s Exoplanet program is to find traces of life in the universe; Now, thanks to JWST, scientists can get more information about these planets, and hopefully find out if life exists on these planets and if so, under what circumstances it could improve.

This brings us to WASP-96b, an exoplanet located about 1,150 light-years away. It is a large gas giant that is more than twice as small as Jupiter, but 1.2 times larger in diameter. In other words, as NASA puts it, it’s “flowers”. It also has a short orbit around the star and is not relatively contaminated by light emitted from nearby objects, making it a major target for JWST’s optical power.

But this is not a picture of the atmosphere of an exoplanet. This is an image of the transmission spectrum of an exoplanet, which may not be exciting at first glance. However, this spectrum, captured by near-infrared imagers and slitless spectrographs (NIRISS) of telescopes, shows unequivocal signs of water and even evidence of clouds. Clouds! This is an “indirect method” of exoplanet studies, explained James Webb’s sub-project scientist Nicole Colon in a media briefing, but the telescope will also use the direct observation method next year.

NIRISS can also capture evidence of other molecules such as methane and carbon dioxide. Although not observed in WASP-96b, they may be detectable in other exoplanets observed by JWST.

Shell of gas and dust emitted by dead stars

James Webb Space Telescope Southern Ring Nebula

Image Credit: NASA

JWST has also observed a nebula of a planet officially known as NGC 3132 or “Southern Ring Nebula”, which gives scientists more clues about the fate of stars at the end of their life-cycle. NASA has shown two images alongside this nebula, one taken with near-infrared light (left) with a scope NIRCam and the other with JWST’s mid-infrared instrument (left).

A planetary nebula is an area of ​​gas produced by cosmic dust and dead stars. This feature, which is about 2,500 light-years away, was also captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, but NASA says that this updated image from JWST provides more details of the elegant structure surrounding the binary star system.

Between the two stars (best seen in the picture on the right), there is a fading, dying star on the lower left, and a bright star that is in the earlier stages of its life. The images also show that NASA calls the stars “shells” around them, each of which marks a period when the fading, dead star (the white dwarf in the lower left in the right image) lost some of its mass. It has been expelling this element for thousands of years, and NASA says its three-dimensional shape is like two bowls held together at their bottom, open away from each other.

The cosmic dance of Stephen Quintet

Stephen's Panchak James Webb Space Telescope

Image Credit: NASA

In 1877, the French astronomer Edouard Stefan first observed the Quantum of Stefan, showing strange interactions of five galaxies that had never been seen before. This final image consists of about 1,000 individual images and 150 million pixels, and it marks the largest image ever from JWST, representing about one-fifth the diameter of the moon.

The image is slightly confusing; The galaxy on the left is actually far ahead, about 40 million light-years from us, and the other four galaxy systems are about 290 million light-years away. These four galaxies are clustered so close together that, in comparison, they actually communicate with each other.

The image even reveals a supermassive black hole located in the center of the apex galaxy, about 24 million times the mass of the Sun.

I think this one could actually be heaven

James Webb Space Telescope Cosmic Cliffs

Image Credit: NASA

JWST lets us take a closer look at the Carina Nebula, a region of the Milky Way about 7,600 light-years away. When we saw Carina with Hubble, the new image showed hundreds of new stars, thanks to JWST’s ability to penetrate cosmic dust. The Carina Nebula reveals that the birth of stars is not a peaceful, quiet matter, but is characterized by a highly volatile process that can be as destructive in some ways as they are generated.

The amber landscape flowing down the image marks the edge of the nebula’s massive, chaotic star-forming region – so vast that the highest points of this amber band are what NASA calls “cosmic cliffs.” Light years high. Data from JWST will help scientists understand more about the process of star formation, and why a certain number of stars are formed in specific regions and how they end up with their mass.

In the end, these achievements are just the beginning. Scientists still have a lot of questions – exoplanets, the structure of the universe and much more – and now they have a new powerful tool in their arsenal to find answers.

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