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The James Webb Telescope has unveiled its first color photo of the Universe. It shows the galaxies formed more than 13 billion years ago. New images will be released on Tuesday.

Here is finally this long-awaited photo! The James Webb Telescope unveiled on Monday 11 July 2022 a magnificent color shot of galaxies formed after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago. This photo is “the deepest and clearest infrared image of the distant Universe ever taken so far,” explains NASA. The James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful ever designed, was launched six months ago.

The light, after traveling so long, stretched from the visible spectrum to the infrared, a wavelength invisible to human eyes, but not to James Webb’s. For this shot illustrating the distant times of the cosmos, the telescope pointed to the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 which, acting as a magnifying glass, also revealed cosmic objects far behind it, an effect called gravitational lensing.

It is here, the deepest and sharpest infrared vision in the universe to date: Webb’s first deep field.

Previewed by @POTUS July 11 shows galaxies once invisible to us. The complete set of @NASAWebbThe first images and color data will be revealed on July 12:

–NASA (@NASA) July 11, 2022

thousands of galaxies

The image, rich in detail, was captured in an observation time of 12.5 hours. It then shows thousands of galaxies, at the center of which some structures “have never been seen before,” according to NASA.

The research work is therefore only at the beginning. “Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the masses, ages, histories and compositions” of these galaxies, specifies the space agency. One of James Webb’s main missions is to explore the early ages of the Universe. In astronomy, seeing far is the same as going back in time, as the observed light traveled for billions of years before reaching us.

“A new era for astronomy has begun,” comments Jonathan Lunine, an astronomer at Cornell University, calling the image “fantastic”. “While it is by no means the farthest point Webb can see, (…) it shows the power of this extraordinary telescope: enormous sensitivity, a wide range of wavelengths and vivid image sharpness,” he added. he.

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“The James Webb Space Telescope opens a new window on the Universe”

New images this Tuesday

Although the names of James Webb’s top five cosmic targets were announced last week, the images had thus far been jealously guarded to create suspense. The following images of this real surprise bag will be revealed during a NASA online event this Tuesday morning. Both must impress the general public with their beauty, but also demonstrate to astronomers from all over the world the full power of the four scientific instruments on board.

Experts will be able to start interpreting the collected data using dedicated software, starting a great scientific adventure. Two photos of nebulae – very photogenic and gigantic clouds of gas and dust where stars form – are scheduled for Tuesday: the Carina Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula. Another target, Stephan’s Quintet, a group of interacting galaxies.

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James Webb Space Telescope: “I would like to be blown away”, explains Olivier Berné, astrophysicist from Toulouse

A gas giant planet

The first spectroscopy of the James Webb Telescope will also be made public on Tuesday. This is not an image in itself, but a technique used to determine the chemical composition of a distant object. In this case, WASP-96 b, a giant planet composed mainly of gas and located outside our solar system.

Exoplanets (planets orbiting a star other than our Sun) are one of James Webb’s main areas of research. About 5,000 have been discovered since 1995, but they remain very mysterious. The goal is to study their atmosphere to determine if some might turn out to be worlds conducive to the development of life.

The composite image of the Hubble telescope, taken between February 1 and February 2, 2010, shows a pinnacle in the star nest of the Carina Nebula.
photo NASA / ESA

Thanks to his near and mid-infrared observations, James Webb will be able to see through impenetrable dust clouds for his predecessor, the mythical Hubble Space Telescope. Launched in 1990 and still in operation, it has a small infrared capability but operates mainly in the visible and ultraviolet. Other major differences between the two telescopes: James Webb’s main mirror is almost three times larger than Hubble’s and evolves much more: 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, compared to Hubble’s 600 km.

James Webb was launched at Christmas 2021 from French Guiana by the Ariane 5 rocket. The result of a huge international collaboration and in the works since the 1990s, this engineering jewel sent 1.5 million kilometers from Earth at a cost of approximately 10 billion dollars.

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