If you’re interested in space exploration, then it is an exciting time for you to be alive. After 20 years of work and research, scientists and engineers from three space agencies have finally completed this new, infrared space telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope is able to see light that is invisible to the human eye. NASA has revealed the first photos of never-before-seen deep space from the new telescope.
NASA Released First Images of Deep Space From New Space Telescope
Being able to see far and clearly into deep space has long be a goal for many space scientists and engineers. After two decades of research and work, they have finally pulled it off. Scientists and engineers from NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency finally completed a $10 billion space telescope.
This space telescope has the capability to see infrared light that the human eye can’t. Infrared is the color of the faintest and oldest objects in the universe. This means that this telescope can essentially look back more than 13 billion years.
“We’re looking back more than 13 billion years… and we’re going further… this is just the first image and since we know the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we’re going back almost to the beginning,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said. “It is going to be so precise you are going to see whether or not planets are habitable. And when you look at something as big as this we’re going to be able to answer questions that we don’t even know what the questions are yet.” (1)
A Major Challenge
NASA has since successfully launched the telescope into space. This was no easy feat. For starters, the telescope is massive. It is larger than the size of two double-decker buses side-by-side. The engineers had to design it so that it could fold in on itself, then open once safely in orbit. Even the scientists and engineers involved were surprised when it flawlessly unpacked itself.
The next challenge was keeping the telescope cold enough. Warm objects produce infrared light, so the telescope had to be cold enough to see it. Even just a glimpse of the sun’s rays could blind the telescope. To make sure this doesn’t happen, they sent it into orbit on the dark side of the moon, so that the telescope will stay in the moon’s shadow. They also constantly cool the instruments to -267℃. There is also a five-layer sun shade the size of a tennis court that protects it from stray heat. This, too, had to unfold once reaching orbit.
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The Space Telescope’s First Photos
The space telescope has been in orbit now since January. NASA finally released its first photos, and they are absolutely stunning. The first picture is of a galaxy cluster called SMACS 0723. Part of the image shows light the was released soon after the Big Bang.
The telescope has also recently released images of a dying star’s “final performance”. For the first time, we are able to see the cloak of dust surrounding this star. It has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions.
These sharper, more detailed images allow scientists to better understand what molecules are present and where in these dying stars. This then helps improve understanding of these objects. It also allows them to understand the stages of stellar evolution more deeply.
What They Know So Far
The two stars that are in orbit with each other that the telescope photographed show two stars in different stages of, essentially, dying. One of the stars is still in earlier stages, while the other later. Thanks to the telescope, the scientists could see for the first time the clouds of dust around the later-stage star. (2)
Each “shell” represents where the fainter star lost some of its mass. Those that are furthest-out from the star happened earlier, those closest to the star happened more recently. Using these trajections, the researchers can look more closely into the history of the system. All of this dust, they say, could eventually travel through space for billions of years and become a new planet.
These are just the first photos of what the incredible James Webb Space Telescope can take. We can’t wait to see more photos. Certainly, they will help scientists to have a better understanding of our solar system, other galaxies, inhabitable planets, and more.
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