NASAThe James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has captured never-before-seen galaxies that appear like dazzling diamonds in the darkness of space.
The image takes viewers back to the early universe, 13.5 billion years ago, with faint, distant lights emanating from newly formed galaxies in an area known as the North Ecliptic Pole.
The area of the sky photographed is only about two percent covered by Earth’s full moon, but JWST can peer deep into this region and observe thousands of twinkling galaxies stretching to the far reaches of the universe.
The cosmic objects seen in the image are a billion times fainter than visible to the naked eye, but the telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured the spectra of light from the objects in the image.
A new image from NASA’s telescope captures thousands of previously unseen galaxies that formed 13.5 billion years ago – 200 million years after the big bang.
The image is one of the first intermediate-depth wide-field images of space and is from the Major Extragalactic Fields for Reionization and Objective Science (PEARLS) GTO program.
The researchers involved in the study explain that “intermediate depth” refers to the faintest objects that can be seen this way, which are about 29th magnitude (a billion times fainter than seen with the unaided eye).
And “wide area” refers to the total area to be covered by the program, which is about one-twelfth the area of the full moon.
Rogier Windhorst, Arizona State University (ASU) Regents Professor and PEARLS principal investigator, said in a statement: “For more than two decades, I have worked with a large international team of scientists to develop our Webb science program.
“Webb’s images are truly phenomenal, truly beyond my wildest dreams. They allow me to measure the number density of galaxies shining down to the very faint infrared limits and the total amount of light they produce.’
The image contains eight different colors from NIRCam and three colors of ultraviolet and visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope.
ASU research assistant Jake Summers said, “Webb’s images are far superior to what we expected from my simulations months before the first scientific observations.
‘Looking at them, I was surprised by the subtlest resolution.
“There are many objects that I never thought we could actually see, including individual globular clusters around distant elliptical galaxies, star-forming knots within spiral galaxies, and thousands of faint galaxies in the background.”
The NIRCam observations, combined with spectra from Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), will allow the team to search for faint objects with spectral emission lines that can be used to more precisely estimate their distances.
“The diffuse light I measure in front of and behind stars and galaxies has cosmological significance, encoding the history of the universe,” said Rosalia O’Brien, ASU graduate scientist.
“I feel very lucky to have started my career now. Webb’s data is like nothing we’ve seen before, and I’m excited about the opportunities and challenges it offers.
STScI research astronomer Anton Koekemoer, who combined the PEARLS images into very large mosaics, said the quality of the image was “truly out of this world”.
“To look at very rare galaxies at the beginning of spacetime, we need the deep imaging of a large area that this PARLS field provides,” he continued.
The North Ecliptic Pole is located in the constellation Draco, one of the largest in the sky, sitting in the northern celestial hemisphere.
It is one of the ancient Greek constellations and was first cataloged by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.
JWST captured other images of spiral galaxies that reveal the chaos of the Cartwheel galaxy, 489.2 million light-years from Earth.
The image also shows individual globular clusters around distant elliptical galaxies and knots of star formation within spiral galaxies (pictured).
JWST captured other images of spiral galaxies that reveal the chaos of the Cartwheel galaxy, located 489.2 million light-years from Earth.
Like a wagon wheel, its appearance is the result of an extreme event – a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller one that is not visible in this image.
Other telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, have previously studied Cartwheel.
But the dramatic galaxy is shrouded in mystery—perhaps literally, given the amount of dust obscuring the view.
JWST’s infrared capabilities mean it can “go back in time” just 100 to 200 million years from the Big Bang, allowing it to capture images of the first stars to shine in the universe more than 13.5 billion years ago.
His first images of nebulae, exoplanets, and galaxy clusters caused great celebration in the scientific world, hailed as “a great day for mankind.”
Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the masses, ages, dates and compositions of galaxies as the telescope seeks to probe the earliest galaxies in the universe.
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James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope is designed to detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies.
The James Webb telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that could help unlock the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to peer into the first galaxies that formed in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.
Already costing more than $7 billion (£5 billion), the giant telescope is being billed as the successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
The operating temperature of the James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments is about 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
It is the world’s largest and most powerful orbital space telescope, which can look back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.
The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble, not a replacement, because the two will work in tandem for some time.
The Hubble telescope was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 24, 1990 by the space shuttle Discovery.
It orbits the Earth at a speed of about 17,000 mph (27,300 km/h) in a low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 340 miles.
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