“It’s a new window in the history of our universe,” said President Biden. “Today we are seeing the first light through that window.”
Launched on Christmas Day 2021, the $10 billion JWST is the most advanced telescope ever sent into space. At 21 feet wide and with 18 gold-plated hexagonal mirrors, the infrared telescope — a collaboration between the United States, Europe and Canada — can see farther and more accurately through space than any other instrument. , far beyond Hubble.
Over the past few months, engineers have work tirelessly to get on the machine, protected from the sun’s rays by a sunshade the size of a tennis court, get up and running. At a position 1.5 million km from Earth, beyond the orbit of the moon, the telescope is now ready for a mission. “You keep pushing yourself,” said Mark McCaughrean, senior adviser for Science and Discovery at the European Space Agency. “It’s amazing.”
The image released by President Biden today is the first of four images scheduled to be released this week, the others being images of two spectacular nebulae and a group of galaxies. compact. A fifth observation, a preliminary study of the atmosphere of a planet in another solar system, will also be revealed.
“It’s like putting on eyeglasses for the first time,” said Wendy Freedman, an astronomer at the University of Chicago. Paul Byrne, an astronomer at Washington University in St. Louis, described the photo as “poetic”, revealing the entire galaxy is inhabited by stars and planets across the universe.
These test images are a glimpse into the capabilities of the telescope operated by NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. JWST’s first year of scheduled scientific observations includes detailed studies of alien planets, investigations of distant galaxies, and expeditions into the depths of the sky and from there back in time to the Big Bang itself. .
“This observatory is seeing things we’ve never seen before,” said Michael Menzel, lead mission systems engineer for JWST at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. .