What do the first images taken by the James Webb Telescope reveal?

“Breathtaking! Incredible! Scientists and the public cried out upon discovering the first images painted by the James Webb Telescope. These snapshots, taken over the past few weeks, and the least exciting, are already revealing unprecedented detail. Six months after its launch, it is working The most powerful space telescope in the world is remarkable, even “beyond expectations”, as evidenced by these wonderful tests obtained during the period of its operation.

a The first photo has been released In a preliminary Monday evening at the White House, in the presence of the US President, Joe Biden. This is a “deep web” image, the deepest and most accurate image of the far-infrared universe ever obtained. In this image, the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 appears as it was 4.6 billion years ago, in which many galaxies of different colors are collected, each with different characteristics.

The combined mass of all galaxies in this cluster also plays the role of a gravitational lens that made it possible to zoom in and highlight distant galaxies, which formed less than a billion years ago. It occurred about 13.5 billion years ago.

See the invisible

“By working in the infrared, the James Webb Telescope allows a view farther than the Hubble telescope into the universe. Through a phenomenon similar to that of the Doppler effect (which causes the frequency of sound emitted by a train to change, for example, depending on whether it is approaching or moving away), the wavelength of light that comes to us from far away galaxies – which are moving away from us more rapidly due to the expansion of the universe – expands and thus finds itself in the infrared. For Hubble, which appears mainly in the visible, these things have become invisible. With Webb, we can therefore go back in time. We should be able to go back a few hundred million years after the Big Bang,” explains Eric Dupuy, Director of Space Exploration Development at the Canadian Space Agency.

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The second snapshot revealed on Tuesday is rather that of the atmospheric spectrum of an exoplanet WASP-96 b located 1,150 light-years away from us that orbits a star similar to the Sun.

To do this, the Canadian instrument NIRISS (Near Infrared Imaging Spectroscopy) captured the spectrum of light from the star passing through the small ring of atmosphere surrounding the exoplanet as the latter passed in front of its star. The spectrum obtained in this way contains a spectral signature of all the molecules in the planet’s atmosphere.

However, analysis of the WASP-96 b spectrum “unequivocally confirmed the presence of water molecules in the atmosphere” of this gas giant with a size slightly larger than Jupiter and a mass approaching that of Saturn.

“This spectrum, which is the most detailed ever from an exoplanet, demonstrates Webb’s ability not only to detect exoplanets, but also to determine the chemical composition of their atmospheres,” asserts enthusiastically René Doyon, Principal Investigator at Canadian Instruments. NIRISS and FGS (Precision Guidance Detector).

Southern Ring Nebula

The third image shows two snapshots of the Austral Ring Nebula, one taken in the near infrared, on the left, and the other in the mid-infrared, on the right. Located 2,500 light-years away from us, this nebula is the scene of the final stages of a star’s life, which appears as a small red dot in the center of the image on the right.

“The mid-infrared (on the right) allowed us to distinguish two stars in the core of the nebula: a red star that had just died and which, while dying, created the so-called planetary nebula. Next to it, another star, white on its side, is still alive, which is also visible. And bright in the center of the left image. However, the red star is almost invisible in the image on the left because it is surrounded by dust. We needed to go further into the mid-infrared to see it behind the cosmic dust that envelops it,” explains Natalie Owlette, who is responsible for Science Communications Web site Webb in Canada, and coordinator of the Exoplanet Research Institute of the University of Montreal.

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Stephen Quint

For its part, the fourth image remarkably depicts the violent gravitational interactions occurring between the four galaxies of Stephan’s Quintet, which includes five galaxies, two of which are about to merge into the cloud on the right. “The Webb telescope allows us to see how collisions between galaxies lead to the birth of new stars in each of them,” stresses El-Master.I Ouellette with specifying that the shock waves of these catastrophes are what condense galactic gases into new stars.

Webb also hinted at a supermassive black hole at the top of the galaxy in the image. The astrophysicist notes: “If we zoom in on this galaxy, we can see energetic jets coming out of the black hole which tells us they are very energetic.” Thanks to the unprecedented level of detail provided by Webb, it will be possible for scientists to determine the growth rate of black holes.

star nursery

In the last breathtaking cosmic view presented to us, this time we discovered a stellar nursery called NGC 33245 located in the Carina Nebula. “The power of the Webb telescope allows us here to see the beginning of the birth of some stars. Birth is a phase in the life of a star that lasts for a very short time, only a few million years, and technically it is difficult to observe such a phase because then the star is completely surrounded by dust. But thanks to the light Infrared, the web penetrates this dust, allowing us to see the birth of stars that have hitherto been impossible to observe,” explains M.I Owate.

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All of these images were acquired after only 120 hours of observation during a specific demonstration programme. This is only the first beginning of what Webb will reveal to us… ”confirms René Doyon.

The space telescope mission is now entering its operational and scientific phase.

Let’s see in the video

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