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President Biden shares James Webb Space Telescope’s first image – cluster of galaxies

President Joe Biden shared the first image from NASA’s James Webb Telescope tonight – the deepest and sharpest infrared look at the distant universe to date – revealing a picture of a cluster of galaxies 4 billion light-years away from Earth   

‘These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things and remind our children that there’s nothing beyond our capacity,’ Biden said.

‘We can see things no one has seen before and go places no one has gone before. America is defined by one single word, possibilities.’

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‘We’re looking back more than 13 billion years,’ said NASA’s Bill Nelson. Pictured is the first image from the James Webb Space Telescope, showing SMACS 0723, a galaxy cluster billions of light-years from Earth

Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, the galaxy cluster known as SMACS 0723 offers a look at what the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope has so far been able to capture ahead of tomorrow’s full release.

‘If you held a grain of sand on the tip of your finger at arm’s length. That’s what you’re seeing, just one little speck, said NASA administrator Bill Nelson. 

‘You’re seeing galaxies that are shining around other galaxies who’s light has been bent and you’re seeing just a small little portion of the universe.

‘We’re looking back more than 13 billion years.

'We can see things no one has seen before and go places no one has gone before,' said President Joe Biden, seen above. 'America is defined by one single word, possibilities.'

‘We can see things no one has seen before and go places no one has gone before,’ said President Joe Biden, seen above. ‘America is defined by one single word, possibilities.’

‘Light travels at 186,000 miles per second – that light that you’re seeing on one of those little specks has been traveling for 13 billion years.

‘By the way, we’re going further.

‘Since we know the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we’re going back almost to the beginning.

‘A hundred years ago we thought there was only one galaxy – now the number is unlimited.

‘In ours we have billions of stars or suns, and there are billions of galaxies.’

‘James Webb allows us to see deeper into space than ever before,’ said Vice President Kamala Harris, who leads the National Space Council.

‘It will enhance what we know about our universe our solar system and possibly life itself.’

The James Webb was launched December 25 last year with the aim of looking back in time to the dawn of the universe and to capture what happened just a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang. Pictured above are NASA administrators and President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris

The James Webb was launched December 25 last year with the aim of looking back in time to the dawn of the universe and to capture what happened just a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang. Pictured above are NASA administrators and President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris

‘This telescope is going to be so precise you’re going to see whether or not planets – if those planets are habitable,’ Nelson explained.

The James Webb was launched December 25 last year with the aim of looking back in time to the dawn of the universe and to capture what happened just a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang. 

The White House briefing was also attending by Vice President Kamala Harris.  

SMACS 0723 has a gravitational pull so powerful that it warps both space-time and the path that light subsequently travels through it. 

The galaxies in the cluster operate as a gravitational lens and, according to NASA, ‘magnify and distort the light of objects behind them, permitting a deep field view into both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations.’

By studying this light, which left its source soon after the universe formed, scientists hope to learn more about the beginnings of the cosmos, and possibly even catch a glimpse of the elusive photons that came from the very first stars to ever exist. 

Though the JWST will seek out diverse cosmic targets, it is the hunt for this light that inspired the telescope’s designers to build it.

The James Webb is the most advanced telescope ever built and is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.  

All of the ways or ‘modes’ to operate Webb’s scientific instruments have now been checked out, which means that Webb has completed its commissioning activities and is ready to begin full scientific operations.

'This telescope is going to be so precise you’re going to see whether or not planets – if those planets are habitable,' Nelson explained. Pictured: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (center) and Associate Administrator for NASAs Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, (right) speak with Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Klaus Pontoppidan (left) after being shown the first full-color images from NASAs James Webb Space Telescope in a preview meeting on July 11, 2022 at the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building in Washington, DC

‘This telescope is going to be so precise you’re going to see whether or not planets – if those planets are habitable,’ Nelson explained. Pictured: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (center) and Associate Administrator for NASAs Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, (right) speak with Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Klaus Pontoppidan (left) after being shown the first full-color images from NASAs James Webb Space Telescope in a preview meeting on July 11, 2022 at the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building in Washington, DC

President Joe Biden released the first ever deep space image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (pictured) today

President Joe Biden released the first ever deep space image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (pictured) today 

TARGETS ACQUIRED! WHAT JAMES WEBB WILL CAPTURE FIRST 

The targets of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first images have been announced. They are: 

Massive foreground galaxy clusters magnify and distort the light of objects behind them, permitting a deep field view into both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations. 

The Carina Nebula is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, located approximately 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. Nebulae are stellar nurseries where stars form. The Carina Nebula is home to many massive stars, several times larger than the sun.

WASP-96 b is a giant planet outside our solar system, composed mainly of gas. The planet, located nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth, orbits its star every 3.4 days. It has about half the mass of Jupiter, and its discovery was announced in 2014. 

The Southern Ring, or ‘Eight-Burst’ nebula, is a planetary nebula – an expanding cloud of gas, surrounding a dying star. It is nearly half a light-year in diameter and is located approximately 2,000 light years away from Earth. 

About 290 million light-years away, Stephan’s Quintet is located in the constellation Pegasus. It is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877. Four of the five galaxies within the quintet are locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters.

Just last week, NASA shared its list of targets for the first images from the James Webb.   

The Carina Nebula is one of the brightest and biggest nebulae in space, located about 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation called Carina.

Nebulae are stellar nurseries where stars are birthed and this particular one is home to many gigantic stars, including some larger than the sun.  

The Southern Ring nebula, also known as the ‘Eight-Burst’ nebula, is a planetary nebula – basically an exploding cloud of gas that’s surrounded by a dying star.

According to NASA, it’s nearly half a light-year in diameter and is located about 2,000 light years away from Earth.

Next on the list is WASP-96 b, which is a giant planet outside of our solar system that’s composed mainly of gas.

This planet is located 1,150 light-years from Earth and orbits its star every 3.4 days.

WASP-96 b has about half the mass of Jupiter and was discovered in 2014.  

Stephan’s Quintet is located in the constellation Pegasus and is known for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1787.

Four of the five galaxies within the quintet are locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters, NASA notes.

Regarding SMACS 0723, the final target, NASA says:

‘Massive foreground galaxy clusters magnify and distort the light of objects behind them, permitting a deep field view into both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations.’

Webb has been going through a six-month period of preparation before it can begin science work, calibrating its instruments to its space environment and aligning its mirrors.

The telescope, which is a replacement for the 32-year-old Hubble, was launched on December 25 last year and later settled into orbit one million miles from our planet. 

It has an ambitious mission to study the early universe, work out how fast it is now expanding and analyze objects throughout the cosmos ranging from galaxies to exoplanets.

The telescope has a gigantic golden mirror measuring just over 21 feet across that is made up of 18 individual hexagonal segments that can fold up and unfold.

They were slowly and meticulously deployed over the past six months to prepare James Webb for its science mission.

Anticipation for the images has only grown as NASA scientists have shared their thoughts over the last week.   

‘What I have seen moved me, as a scientist, as an, and as a human being,’ NASA’s deputy administrator, Pam Melroy, said in a June 29 press conference.  

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said earlier this month that Webb would be able to gaze further into space than any telescope before it.

‘It’s going to explore objects in the solar system and atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, giving us clues as to whether potentially their atmospheres are similar to our own,’ he said.

Last week NASA shared a 'teaser' image ahead of the eagerly-anticipated release of the first deep-space pictures from its James Webb Space Telescope

Last week NASA shared a ‘teaser’ image ahead of the eagerly-anticipated release of the first deep-space pictures from its James Webb Space Telescope

‘It may answer some questions that we have: Where do we come from? What more is out there? Who are we? 

‘And of course, it’s going to answer some questions that we don’t even know what the questions are.’ 

Webb’s infrared capabilities allow it to see back in time to the Big Bang, which happened 13.8 billion years ago.

Instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope 

NIRCam (Near InfraRed Camera) an infrared imager from the edge of the visible through the near infrared  

NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) will also perform spectroscopy over the same wavelength range. 

MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) will measure the mid-to-long-infrared wavelength range from 5 to 27 micrometers.

FGS/NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph), is used to stabilise the line-of-sight of the observatory during science observations.  

As the universe is expanding, light from the earliest stars shifts from the ultraviolet and visible wavelengths it was emitted in, to longer infrared wavelengths.

Astronomers will use Webb to observe the infrared universe, analyze the data collected, and publish scientific papers on their discoveries.

Beyond what is already planned for Webb, there are the unexpected discoveries astronomers can’t anticipate. 

In 1990, when Hubble was launched, dark energy was completely unknown. Now it is one of the most exciting areas of astrophysics.

Scientists are now eagerly-awaiting what secrets James Webb might unlock and what this could mean for our understanding of the universe.

Described by NASA as the premier space-science observatory of the next decade, Webb will mainly view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to gaze through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born. 

In comparison, its predecessor Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths since its 1990 launch.

NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, as the two will work in tandem for a while. 

Currently, the earliest cosmological observations date to within 330 million years of the Big Bang, but with Webb’s capacities, astronomers believe they will easily break the record. 

James Webb began development in 1996 and was originally envisaged to launch in 2007, but a major redesign in 2005 put this back and a series of further delays led to it eventually making it to orbit at the end of last year.

The observatory and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).

It is the world’s biggest and most powerful orbital space telescope, capable of peering back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang. 

James Webb's primary mirror consists of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-plated beryllium metal, and measures 21 feet 4 inches (6.5 metres) in diameter. It is supported by three shallow carbon fibre tubes, or struts, that extend out from the large primary mirror

James Webb’s primary mirror consists of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-plated beryllium metal, and measures 21 feet 4 inches (6.5 metres) in diameter. It is supported by three shallow carbon fibre tubes, or struts, that extend out from the large primary mirror

THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE

The James Webb telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of roughly 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).

It is the world’s biggest and most powerful orbital space telescope, capable of peering back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.

The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, as the two will work in tandem for a while. 

The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

It circles the Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude. 


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