The James Webb Space Telescope

Talk about looking up at the starry night!

I am sure that many of you have seen the latest images but still for those that have not…

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First the BBC presented a report on the 25th December, 2022. This is part of what they described:

James Webb telescope: Amazing images show the Universe as never before

The Tarantula Nebula: Only 161,000 light years from Earth, this is a place where thousands of stars were born

By Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent

It was the $10bn gift to the world. A machine that would show us our place in the Universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched exactly a year ago, on Christmas Day. It had taken three decades to plan, design and build.

Many wondered whether this successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope could actually live up to expectations. 

We had to wait a few months while its epic 6.5m primary mirror was unpacked and focused, and its other systems tested and calibrated.

The first thing you have to remember about James Webb is that it is an infrared telescope. It sees the sky at wavelengths of light that are beyond what our eyes are able to discern. 

Astronomers use its different cameras to explore regions of the cosmos, such as these great towers of gas and dust. The Pillars were a favourite target of Hubble. It would take you several years travelling at the speed of light to traverse this entire scene.

Now we go to the NASA site for more of the JWST:

First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope

The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data were released during a televised broadcast at 10:30 a.m. EDT (14:30 UTC) on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. These listed targets below represent the first wave of full-color scientific images and spectra the observatory has gathered, and the official beginning of Webb’s general science operations. They were selected by an international committee of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail.

Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.

Called the Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional picture looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. In reality, it is the edge of the giant, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, and the tallest “peaks” in this image are about 7 light-years high. The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the center of the bubble, above the area shown in this image.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

With its powerful, infrared vision and extremely high spatial resolution, Webb shows never-before-seen details in this galaxy group. Sparkling clusters of millions of young stars and starburst regions of fresh star birth grace the image. Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. Most dramatically, Webb captures huge shock waves as one of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Some stars save the best for last.

The dimmer star at the center of this scene has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions, and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that this star is cloaked in dust.

Two cameras aboard Webb captured the latest image of this planetary nebula, cataloged as NGC 3132, and known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula. It is approximately 2,500 light-years away.

Webb will allow astronomers to dig into many more specifics about planetary nebulae like this one – clouds of gas and dust expelled by dying stars. Understanding which molecules are present, and where they lie throughout the shells of gas and dust will help researchers refine their knowledge of these objects.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star.

The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away.

While the Hubble Space Telescope has analyzed numerous exoplanet atmospheres over the past two decades, as in capturing the first clear detection of water in 2013, Webb’s immediate and more detailed observation marks a giant leap forward in the quest to characterize potentially habitable planets beyond Earth.

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Just a few of the very special photographs. They are remarkable!

December’s issue of the Science magazine had an article in which there was a paragraph that described:

The first data and images beamed back to Earth by JWST suggest it was all worthwhile. They are “beautiful” and ‘mind-blowing,” according to astronomers who have spoken with Science. It was like putting on infrared glasses, one said, and seeing the universe anew.

The GOLDEN EYE, by Daniel Clery

Imagine that just, say, 25 years ago these images and this mission would have been science fiction and now it is a reality.

I will leave you with a quotation from that SCIENCE magazine (16th December): “Politicians and pundits often make up whatever suits their political goals about science, but scientists recognize how little we understand about the Universe. As Kennedy said, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.“”

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