The curtain finally rises on the sky as seen by the James-Webb Space Telescope. After more than twenty-five years of waiting, multiple postponements and budget swings, Earthlings have this new keen eye to scan the cosmos. On Monday 11 July, US President Joe Biden himself raised his eyelid, unveiling the first image of the JWST (its English acronym), built by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and their Canadian counterpart (CSA). . New shots will be unveiled on Tuesday 12 July afternoon.
“A historic day”, greeted Joe Biden, applauding as the image arrived on a screen. This first image is a firework of more or less wide, more or less bright points of light and of various colors, with sometimes fine and bright arcs that streak the black sky. These tens, even hundreds of fragments are so many galaxies that populate the Universe. Unheard of in such a small square space, equivalent to the size of a grain of sand at the end of the arm. If a slight impression of blur may surprise, this shot testifies to the success of the giant 6.5-meter-diameter mirror telescope, launched at Christmas 2021, now detached 1.5 million kilometers from Earth and fully operational.
“Colleagues told me they had tears in their eyes when they saw this first image. »Johan Richard, astronomer
Indeed, the instrument confirms that it is indeed a formidable time machine. Back to the origins of the Big Bang, tracking down a flickering light that took more than 13 billion years to reach us. “It is the first objective of the telescope, to probe the dawn of time, the origin of stars and galaxies a few tens of millions of years from the Big Bang”summarizes David Elbaz, researcher at the French Commission for Alternative Energy and Atomic Energy (CEA).
“It’s fantastic! He’s really very very rich. Colleagues told me they had tears in their eyes when they saw this first picture”, testifies Johan Richard, astronomer of the Center for Astrophysics Research of the Lyon Observatory, delighted with this first symbolic choice. “ It’s fun to see these first images and now we can start dreaming. “greets Nicole Nesvadba, director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), at the Côte d’Azur Observatory. “The level of detail is breathtaking. We will really see the Universe differently. I’m waiting for the other images “confides Olivier Berné, CNRS researcher at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse.
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