Astronomers unveiled the first images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, which orbits the Sun at a distance of about 1.5 million km from Earth.
The images were taken during a test to check the alignment of the instruments of this fabulous spacecraft, which cost a whopping 10 billion dollars to develop.
Let’s discover these first images of this telescope 100 times more powerful than the old Hubble Space Telescope!
What do the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope tell us?
The first images reveal a section of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy floating near our Milky Way.
These images of orange stars may seem innocuous, but they provide a taste of the powerful resolution of this new telescope.
Never before have such distant stars been observed with such clarity. These images confirm that this new space observatory will be able to study the composition of stars and planets located in other galaxies. In other words, it is as if for the first time we could go to a new continent and study the animals and vegetation that make it up.
This was made possible by James Webb’s gigantic mirror. For comparison, just one of the 18 mirrors that make up the James Webb mirror is larger than the single mirror on the old Spitzer space telescope that studied the cosmos between 2003 and 2020.
The alignment of James Webb’s 18 mirrors was one of the main challenges that NASA engineers had to face. To obtain images of impeccable clarity, the mirrors must all be aligned to the nearest millimeter.
This fully focused image is the highest resolution infrared image ever taken from space. It reveals the star 2MASS J17554042+6551277. This star is located in our galaxy at about 2000 light-years from Earth. In the background, we can observe galaxies located billions of light-years away from the Earth and which had never been observed until now!
When will James Webb’s first scientific observations take place?
The first scientific analyses should begin in June 2022, when all the instruments will be functional and all the preliminary analyses will have been carried out. As a reminder, one of the main objects of study of the telescope will be to study the first ages of the Universe and the appearance of the first galaxies.
Astrophysicists believe that the telescope will be able to study the composition of galaxies that appeared just 200 million years after the Big Bang. According to a NASA article, James Webb will be able to detect the first stars and black holes in the universe. Until now, the most distant and oldest galaxy never studied was the GN-z11 galaxy. This galaxy would have appeared 400 million years ago.
The first area of space to be officially studied by the James Webb Telescope is still kept secret. What do you think will be the first space object that James Webb will point its instruments at when it is fully operational? Or what would you like James Webb to study first?
For our part, the exoplanet Proxima Centauri B would be a very good choice as the first target. It is the closest exoplanet to our solar system. James Webb’s instruments will be able to study its composition and atmosphere in great detail. One of James Webb’s missions will be to study the atmospheres of distant exoplanets in order to discover if one of them has the right conditions for life to appear!