NASA has released a stunning “teaser” image from the James Webb Space Telescope.
It comes ahead of next week’s much-anticipated wider release of telescope images showing what NASA says will be “unprecedented, detailed views of the universe.”
The scientists behind the project have billed the test image (in the photo below) “among the deepest images of the universe ever taken.”
The trailer will not be used as part of next week’s release. NASA said it was not used to provide scientific observation, “rather…to test how well the telescope could stay locked on a target, but it does hint at the power of the telescope.”
The image, says NASA, shows “bright stars that stand out with their six long, sharply defined diffraction peaks, an effect due to [the telescope’s] six-sided mirror segments. Beyond the stars, galaxies occupy almost the entire background.” Represents 32 hours of exposure time.
But what is the James Webb Space Telescope, what is its purpose and why is it such an important project in the astronomy sector? Here, Yahoo News UK explains everything…
What is the James Webb Space Telescope?
Also known as the “Webb,” the James Webb Telescope is the most powerful telescope ever launched into space.
It was launched on Christmas Day last year as part of a decades-long project to further scientific knowledge of the universe.
Its goal is to discover more about the formation of stars and galaxies, and to determine how the first galaxies were formed, which means that it has the potential to make advances in the field of astronomy.
If successful, it will provide scientists with valuable insights into space matter as it aims to uncover details of the mysterious substance that makes up the vast majority of matter.
Indeed, Christopher Evans, project scientist for the European Space Agency (ESA), said the observations are expected to change the face of astronomy forever.
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“We are very excited to see the first observations in the summer,” Evans said in May. “Because I think astronomy will never be the same once we see what this can do with these early observations.”
The mission is led by NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency, and the UK has played a major role in leading the European Consortium that designed, built and tested the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). This is the telescope’s key instrument and is capable of seeing the dim light of the most distant stars.
The project has been in the works since 1996.
When will NASA reveal the first images from the telescope?
The first full-color images and spectroscopic data from the telescope, offering “unprecedented and detailed views of the universe,” will be released on Tuesday (July 12).
Each image will be posted on a live NASA feed starting at 2:30pm UK time.
It will consist of cosmic objects that Webb targeted for these early observations, including:
Carina Nebula: One of the largest and brightest nebulae (stellar universes where stars form) in the sky, located 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. It is home to many massive stars, several times larger than the sun.
WASP-96 b (spectrum) – A giant planet outside the Solar System, composed mostly of gas and located nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth. Its discovery was only announced eight years ago.
South Ring Nebula – A planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of gas surrounding a dying star, nearly half a light-year in diameter and located approximately 2,000 light-years from Earth.
Stephan’s Quintet: About 290 million light-years away, located in the constellation of Pegasus. It was the first compact group of galaxies ever discovered in 1787.