NASA's James Webb telescope releases deepest image of universe yet
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has shown us the farthest we have ever seen of our universe. The first image from the telescope dubbed "Webb's First Deep Field" has been unveiled by US President Joe Biden. "This is the oldest documented light in the history of the universe from 13 billion — let me say that again, 13 billion years ago," said Biden.
- The Webb telescope is one of the most expensive scientific instruments ever built. From the first image, it seems that the estimated $10 billion was well spent.
- With the JWST, we will see more of the universe than we ever imagined seeing.
- Several unanswered questions about the cosmos are expected to be cracked by this engineering wonder.
The image unveiled by NASA shows us a never-seen-before view of a galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. It covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm's length for a person on Earth. The cluster's gravitational field acts as a magnifying lens, warping and magnifying the light from galaxies behind it, giving a view of otherwise faint objects.
The image by JWST captured starlight from objects that formed only a few million years after the Big Bang. The starlight is older than 13 billion years. "For the first time, we can see the details of these earliest galaxies, harboring the first generations of stars to have ever formed in the Universe," said Cathryn Trott of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.
The JWST was launched in 2021 and is orbiting in a region called the second Lagrange point. Its primary mirror spans over 21 feet and uses 18 gold-coated mirror segments. The first image by the telescope of distant galaxies was made possible by its NIRcam (Near-Infrared camera), as light from the early universe has been stretched out by the time it reached us.
In its first five months, part of Webb's observing time is dedicated to the Early Release Science program, which includes exploration of galaxy formation and evolution from cosmic dawn. The first image is part of this program. The next set of images will be released at 7:30 pm IST on Tuesday. After that, astronomers worldwide will get their share of time on selected projects.