Planet Talk

James Webb’s Images!

On July 12th, NASA’s James Webb telescope released its first images to the public. The four targets of this telescope include three images and one spectrum, along with a fourth image released on July 11th. The data and images collected by the James Webb Space Telescope have already displayed the potential to contribute largely to scientific space research.

Image of the Cosmic Cliffs in the Carina Nebula, taken by JWST

The images taken by the James Webb telescope depict the Carina and Southern Ring Nebula, along with Stephan’s Quintet, a group of galaxies. Along with these, the telescope also released the spectrum of a gas giant exoplanet called WASP-96 b. The Carina Nebula is one of the brightest and largest nebulas in the sky, 7,600 light-years away from the Earth. On the other hand, the Southern Ring Nebula is closer, only 2,000 light-years away, and consists of an expanding cloud of gas surrounding a dying star. Stephan’s Quintet is a group of five galaxies that exist 290 million light-years away from Earth, containing stars of a variety of ages. The last observed item, a spectrum of WASP-96 b (the only cloudless planet!), represents the number of different wavelengths of light emitted by the exoplanet.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far. The telescope’s first deep dive is into galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which teems with thousands of galaxies ranging in brightness from the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared to other brilliant galaxies. The image shows cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago, allowing scientists to do deep analysis as though looking through a time machine.

Dazzling image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723

Massimo Pascale, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, was one of many astronomers intrigued by the data arriving from James Webb’s images. Proceeding these results, scientists have already estimated the amount of mass the cluster contains, uncovered a violent incident in the cluster’s recent past, and estimated the ages of the stars in galaxies far beyond the cluster itself.

The data and findings received from the James Webb Space Telescope are shocking and marvelous, having already revealed surprises about galaxies far away. The final instrument of the telescope was cleared for science on Monday, July 11, preparing JWST for a whole host of new capabilities. Webb scientists mark this as the start of a new era, one in which we will learn so much more about our universe and how we fit into it.


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