Astronomers navigate through images from a new space telescope: NPR

When the first James Webb Space Telescope images appeared in Times Square in New York and everywhere else, scientists worked to dig deeper into the data.

Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images


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Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images


When the first James Webb Space Telescope images appeared in Times Square in New York and everywhere else, scientists worked to dig deeper into the data.

Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

Stunning distant galaxies, clues about the atmospheres of alien planets, and the unexpected weirdness around Jupiter are just some of the scientific treasures discovered by the James Webb Space Telescope.

The days that have passed since the public unveiled the first telescope Pictures It was filled with excitement for the astronomers, who were overwhelmed by a whirlwind of potential discoveries as they made early viewings of the $10 billion telescope.

“It’s like Christmas, Christmas, anniversaries, graduation, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah all wrapped into one for us, and it just happens every day,” he says. Jacob Ben from the University of Chicago.

“It works better than I thought almost anyone could hope for. It really is a miracle,” he says. Rachel Somerville, an astronomer at the Flatiron Institute. “It’s like nothing I’ve experienced.”

The few stunning images that appeared at press conferences on July 11 and 12 are just a small part of what the telescope has seen since its December launch and spread into space.

“The initial reveal of course was really exciting. But the real work didn’t start until two days later. That’s when the first data became available,” he explains. Laura Creedbergan astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

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“Scientists want actual data,” he agrees. Misty Bentz, an astronomer at Georgia State University. “We want to go in and actually pull up the scientific data that these beautiful images are made of.”

A crowd watched from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as some of the first images were released on July 12.

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A crowd watched from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as some of the first images were released on July 12.

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The researchers were quick to download everything collected by this tool so they could comb through. Jennifer Lutzdirector of the Gemini International Observatory, is part of a team researching a specific field of thousands of galaxies that have been studied many times in the past.

“We know these galaxies very well, but seeing these images with James Webb is like putting on glasses,” Lutz says. “Things we couldn’t see before now are crystal clear. It was overwhelming. It was really overwhelming.”

It is an emotional experience, and a shared one, as astronomers gleefully tell their comrades about each revelation. Jessica SpeckC., of the California Institute of Technology, found herself crying on the phone when a friend told her about a new analysis of the atmosphere of an exoplanet, a planet orbiting a distant star.

“It’s the most beautiful look at an exoplanet’s atmosphere I’ve ever seen,” says Spake. “I was in tears.”

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Researchers generally keep their discoveries secret until they are officially published, but that shouldn’t take long – some scientific reports are starting to surface on the Internet.

One of the main goals of the James Webb Space Telescope was to find very distant galaxies, Of which It is so far away that the light emitted by it would have had to travel for almost the entire history of the universe to reach the telescope. And astronomers already think they’ve seen some.

“Hopefully in a few weeks we can tell the world what we’ve found,” he says. Stephen Finkelstein, an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin. “It sounds really exciting.”

Closer to home, some views Jupiter The telescope captured it astonishing scientists, because it showed rings around the planet along with its moons.

Episodes have been studied before, but “seeing it all together in one picture was kind of amazing. It was really incredible,” he says. Emkey D Butteran astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley.

She and the others were puzzled by a strange line that appeared around the edge of one side of the planet, indicating a layer of mist. “So we’re looking into that to find out what this really is,” she says. “Is it fog? Or is it some other emission, from gases? It’s interesting.”

And of course, while this science scramble continues, the telescope continues to make more observations.

On July 20 and July 21, for example, they stare at a mysterious planet outside our solar system called GG 1214 BBean says. “We’ll be staring at the planet for nearly two full days of telescope time.”

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He’s been studying this planet for more than a decade, and he says our solar system doesn’t have anything like it. It is larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, its true nature obscured by clouds or fog that other telescopes have not been able to penetrate.

If all goes as planned, by the end of this week, Ben and his colleagues will know what the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was able to see staring into this world.

Until then, they just have to wait. “I think at some point I will probably look up at the sky and be like, ‘JWST is doing its job right now, and it’s looking at my favorite planet,'” says Bean. ‘This is a special moment.’

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