What do the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope tell us?

Six months after liftoff, now in an orbit of 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, the James Webb Telescope is working perfectly. Proof of this, he began sending us images of the universe with an unprecedented level of detail. Here are three of them narrated by three astrophysicists.

1galaxy cluster SMAC 0723

This is the first image revealed by James Webb. It was revealed by US President Joe Biden on July 12, 2022, at the height of the Apollo program in the 1960s, and is already one of the most famous images in our world.

This picture isdeep field‘,” explains Nicole Nesvadba, astrophysicist and director of research at CNRS.n directs the telescope to a part of the sky where there are a priori no particularly bright objects to detect which ones are fainter in that part of the skyThe result is this image showing thousands of galaxies, some so far away that they appear as a small red dot in the background.

It is these almost particularly visible elements that are of particular interest to scientists. These are some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, which formed over 13.3 billion years ago. “In astronomy, the further away you look at the universe, the more you look back in time‘, remember Nicole Nsvdba. And James Webb, thanks to these abilities that enable him to see infrared, which is light invisible to our eyes, makes it possible to go back far beyond any other telescope before him.

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2Carina Nebula

The James Webb Telescope is just a great time machine. It is also a tool for analyzing the chemical composition of things. In particular to understand the formation of stars such as our sun.

We are here in our galaxy, the Milky Way, about 7,500 light-years away in Earth. This nebula is also called the nursery of stars. “In the upper region, with this blue background, we are in an area where the gas is very hot”explains Olivier Bernet, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetary Science in Toulouse and Director of the science program for the James Webb Space Telescope. He continues: “Towards the bottom, we see these orange blurs. These are called interstellar clouds. It is made up of gas and dust. Within these clouds, where it is cold enough and gravity is strong enough, the gas and dust clouds can collapse and form new stars. You can also see star formation in some places.“.

Note that we can see nebulae with the naked eye in our sky. This is the Orion Nebula, which is 1,500 light years from Earth.

3Jupiter and its moon Europa

James Webb’s infrared display also began scanning objects in our solar system. The first image of Jupiter was released on July 14.

In this picture we see Jupiter and one of its four moons called Europa”, describes Tristan Gelo, an astrophysicist at the Côte d’Azur observatory who specializes in the formation of gas giants.Thanks to James Webb, we observe Jupiter with high accuracy in the infrared, so we observe the heat emitted by the planet, which will give us a lot of information about its composition. We will also be able to study this large red spot on the right. It’s an anticyclone that’s been around for 300 years and we don’t know much about it.” Tristan Guillot rejoices.

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