James Webb Space Telescope Has Officially Ushered 'The Dawn Of A New Era In Astronomy’

The United States space agency revealed further detailed photos acquired by the James Webb Space Telescope only hours after the world was given a peek of "the deepest, sharpest infrared view of the universe ever recorded."

New Era In Astronomy

NASA said that the photographs from Webb, a collaborative project with the European and Canadian space agencies and the world's biggest and most powerful space observatory, herald "a new era in astronomy."

Southern Ring Nebula

One of the images published on Tuesday morning showed a cloud of dust and beams of light encircling a dying star known as the Southern Ring Nebula, situated roughly 2,500 light-years from Earth, while the other revealed Stephan's Quintet, a galaxy cluster.

“The dimmer star at the center of this scene has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions,” the agency said about the Southern Ring Nebula photo, adding that Webb “has revealed for the first time that this star is cloaked in the dust”.

“New details like these, from the late stages of a star’s life, will help us better understand how stars evolve and transform their environments,” NASA said.

Looking Back In Time

The $9.7 billion Webb observatory was created to see past the cosmos to the beginning of the known universe, ushering in a new age of scientific discovery.

NASA picked the initial set of full-color, high-resolution photographs, which required weeks to produce from raw telescope data, to give intriguing early images from Webb's core areas of study and a preview of future research missions.

The "deep field" picture unveiled at a short White House event on Monday evening is crowded with many stars, with massive galaxies in the foreground and faint, very distant galaxies sometimes poking through.

A portion of the picture is composed of light from just after the Big Bang, which occurred 13.8 billion years ago.

What we saw that day in the most detailed snapshot of the cosmos to date was the early universe.

JWST VS Hubble

Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than its 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which works mostly at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths. Webb was designed to observe its objects primarily in the infrared spectrum.

The substantially bigger light-collecting surface of Webb's main mirror — an array of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – allows it to see objects at greater distances and, therefore, farther back in time than Hubble or any other telescope.

Carina Nebula & WASP-96

One of the other photographs published on Tuesday depicted a "star-studded landscape of mountains and 'valleys'" in the Carina Nebula, which is situated around seven light-years distant.

Another “captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star”.

Remember that this will occur repeatedly as this telescope advances - the James Webb Space Telescope will disclose the configuration of the atmospheres of extraterrestrial worlds.

According to the team working on the telescope, JWST will now make new discoveries almost every week, all of which will be made public.

Reference(s): NASA (WASP-96Southern Ring planetary NebulaStephan’s QuintetCarina Nebula)

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