– More images from the James Webb Space Telescope are on the way
After revealing a first image last night, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will reveal more later in the day.
For the second day in a row, space enthusiasts around the world will be glued to their screens: after a gorgeous first image revealed the day before, the superpowered James Webb Space Telescope has more marvels ready on Tuesday with the release of new images in color of of NASA.
On the program: two nebulae illustrating the life cycle of stars, an exoplanet and a compact cluster of galaxies.
The event will be broadcast live at 10:30 am local time (4:30 pm in Switzerland) from the Goddard Space Center in Maryland near Washington, USA.
A first image from the telescope, illustrating the distant ages of the cosmos, was unveiled on Monday in the presence of US President Joe Biden, who hailed a “historic” moment.
The detailed image shows galaxies that formed shortly after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago.
The tension remained
Indeed, one of James Webb’s primary missions—a $10 billion engineering marvel and the most powerful space telescope ever designed—is to explore the very young Universe. This first demonstration should give an overview of its capabilities in this area.
But it was just one of five destinations announced by NASA for this surprise bag, which officially marks the beginning of the telescope’s scientific observations and whose contents have so far been carefully kept secret to create suspense.
Images of two nebulae – very photogenic and gigantic clouds of gas and dust – will be revealed on Tuesday and promise to be spectacular.
About 7,600 light-years away, the Carina Nebula should illustrate star formation. It hosts many masses several times the size of our Sun.
The Southern Ring Nebula is a so-called planetary nebula (though it has nothing to do with planets): it’s a huge cloud of gas surrounding a dying star.
Another target: Stephan’s quintet, a group of interacting galaxies.
The latest cosmic object whose observation will be revealed on Tuesday is an exoplanet, a planet orbiting a star other than our sun – one of James Webb’s main research directions.
It was not actually photographed but analyzed by spectroscopy, a technique used to determine the chemical composition of a distant object. In this case WASP-96 b, a giant planet composed mostly of gas.
By combining the data previously obtained thanks to other telescopes and those of James Webb, “we will probably be able to detect water vapor” in its atmosphere, estimated with AFP José A. Caballero, astronomer at the Centro de Astrobiologia in Spain and specialist in exoplanets.
This data “will be interesting for me to see the capabilities of the telescope and instruments,” he added, although he thinks this first exoplanet is a bit “boring” and looks forward to smaller and less hot observations.
Six months later
James Webb was launched about six months ago, on Christmas Day, from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket, the result of a major international collaboration and in the works since the 1990s, located 1.5 million kilometers from away from the earth.
The release of these first images marks the beginning of an immense scientific adventure that would span many years and transform our understanding of the universe.
Researchers around the world have reserved observing time with James Webb, whose program for the first year of operation has already been carefully defined and published by a panel of experts.