It has finally arrived: after years of waiting, the first image captured by the James Webb telescope was unveiled to the world on Monday 11 July. The sumptuous shot shows the galaxies that formed shortly after the Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago.

An engineering gem worth $ 10 billion (€ 9.98 billion), 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.

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The image, rich in detail, shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, in the center of which some structures “never seen before”, according to NASA. The snapshot was taken in an observation time of 12.5 hours.

This first scientific and color image by James Webb marks a day “historical”, greeted President Joe Biden during the event organized for the occasion at the White House, six months after the launch into orbit of this space telescope, the most powerful ever designed. This photograph is “the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant Universe ever taken so far”welcomed the American space agency.

Although the names of James Webb’s top five cosmic targets were announced last week, the images had so far been jealously guarded to create suspense.

The following images of this real surprise bag will be revealed during a NASA online event on 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.

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.

The research work is therefore only at the beginning. “Researchers will soon begin to learn more about masses, ages, stories and compositions.” of these galaxies, concluded NASA.


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