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We’re about to get a whole new perspective on the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope will release its first high-resolution color images on July 12. One of those images “is the deepest image of our universe ever taken,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“If you think about it, it’s far beyond what humanity has moved before,” Nelson said. “And we are just beginning to understand what Webb can and will do. He will explore objects in the solar system and the atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, giving us clues as to whether the atmosphere is similar to ours.”
Nelson, who reported that he tested positive for Covid-19 Tuesday night, was unable to attend the event in person at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
The Webb mission, which is estimated to last 10 years, has enough redundant fuel capacity to operate for 20 years, according to NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy.
Meanwhile, Webb’s team is finalizing the final steps to prepare the observatory and its tools to collect scientific data, which should finish next week, said Bill Ochs, NASA’s Webb project manager.
Mission engineers said the observatory performed better than expected. The team continues to develop strategies to avoid micro-meteorite impacts, such as The one that hit part of a web mirror in May.
The space observatory, which was launched in December, will be able to look inside Atmospheres of the outer planets And the Observing some of the first galaxies They were created after the universe began observing them through infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye.
Webb started taking her first photos a couple of weeks ago, and she’s still snapping some photos that will be shared on July 12. This package of color images will be the result of 120 hours of monitoring – the equivalent of five days of data. .
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,” said Eric Smith, Web program scientist and chief scientist for NASA’s Department of Astrophysics.
The exact number and nature of the images have not been shared, said Klaus Pontopedan, a Web project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, but “each of them will reveal different aspects of the universe in unprecedented detail and sensitivity.”
The first edition will highlight Webb’s scientific capabilities as well as the ability of the massive golden mirror and science tools to produce stunning images.
The images will show how galaxies interact and grow and how collisions between galaxies lead to star formation, as well as examples of the violent life cycle of stars. We can expect to see the first spectrum of an exoplanet, or how different wavelengths of light and colors reveal properties of other worlds.
The telescope’s near-infrared imaging instrument and non-slitting spectrometer concluded preparations this week. The instrument will be able to use a specialized prism to scatter the light collected from cosmic sources to create three distinct rainbows that reveal the colors of more than 2,000 infrared colors from a single observation.
This is especially useful when observing exoplanets to determine whether or not they have an atmosphere – and selecting the atoms and molecules within them as starlight shines through their atmosphere to determine their composition.
The best part, Pontopedan said, is that Webb’s team is still at the beginning of the mission, and the data collected by the space observatory will be released to the public so that scientists around the world can “begin a common journey of exploration.”
The data collected by Webb will enable scientists to make accurate measurements of planets, stars and galaxies in a way that has not been possible before, said Susan Mulally, deputy project scientist for Webb at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
“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. .
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, saw some of the first images that will be shared on July 12.
“It’s an emotional moment when you see nature suddenly release some of its secrets,” Zurbuchen said Wednesday. “With this telescope, it’s really hard not to break records.”
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