The James Webb Space Telescope captured its first image, revealing that its instruments would provide a perfect view of the still-unseen depths of the ancient Universe.
NASA on Wednesday, March 16, 2021 released the first image captured by the JWST, which was a test image and not part of a scientific study, to witness the space telescope’s 18 hexagonal yellow mirrors synchronized in-to collaboration. Still, the test shows what this powerful technology can do when pointed at a star about 1 million miles away from Earth, according to space agency’s official website.
The telescope captured the image in Feb 2022, but the aftermath will continue to-make waves for decades & perhaps centuries.
1000 of galaxies photo bombed JSWT image
Scientists were thrilled when they finally got a glimpse of Webb’s test photos, which captured light of a star 100 times fainter than our human eye can see, 2,000 light-years from our planet. Mirrors of JWST combined with filters that tinted the distant star light into a red, spiky figure, created the image. But the highlight of the picture was not the foreground.
Thousands of distant galaxies mysteriously loomed behind the spiky star, highlighting Unrealised potential of Webb. “You can’t help but see those thousands of galaxies behind-it, really beautiful,” says Jane Rigby, Webb Operations Project scientist, in a press release.
In fact, these distant galaxies are ancient: several billion years. But this is just a taste of Webb’s capabilities, which scientists hope will see as-far-as “a few hundred million years after the Big Bang,” Rigby added.
JWST is about to rock astronomy
As the flagship successor to Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope will bring astronomy wave after wave of discovery.
Hopes are high that it will not only reveal the chemical contents of many extraterrestrial worlds believed to have what it takes for life, but also show the conditions of the early universe in a way that we have only imagined.
“This summer, Webb will begin searching for galaxies in the distant universe,” says L. Y. Aaron Yung, postdoc at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In 1995, Hubble captured a spectacular image of the old universe, called Hubble Deep Field, of what appears to the naked eye to be one of the darkest & emptiest patches of sky.
A few years later, in the early 2000s, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image surpassed this feat. Webb’s advanced equipment, namely the near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec), should ensure that Hubble’s successor continues this scientific exploration. Namely, the James Webb Space Telescope will reveal the distance to ancient galaxies, the types of stars that compose them, and “the relative abundance of life giving elements such as oxygen & carbon in their interstellar gas,” in NASA’s words.
Paradigm shifting discoveries
Latest image is un-questionably dominated by the central star, but even so, Webb immense capabilities could not help but also capture 1000s of ancient galaxies. Once its science missions begin this summer, one can only imagine how fascinating the wonders it uncovers will be. So we better prepare for paradigm shifting discoveries in 2022 and beyond.