Astronomer Says New Webb Space Telescope Images “Almost Brought Him to Tears”

Evolution of Infrared Space Telescopes

The evolution of infrared astronomy, from Spitzer to WISE to JWST. Credit: Andras Gaspar

The scientific and astronomical communities are eagerly waiting for Tuesday, July 12th, to come around. That is the day when

Webb Telescope Image Sharpness Test

Engineering images of sharply focused stars in the field of view of each instrument demonstrate that the telescope is fully aligned and in focus. Credit: NASA/STScI

Since it launched on Christmas Day in 2021, the observatory has successfully unfolded, commissioned its science instruments, and reached the L2 Lagrange Point, where it will remain for its entire mission. It also successfully aligned all 18 of its segmented mirrors, which are arranged in a honeycomb configuration that measures 6.5 meters (more than 21 feet) in diameter – almost three times the size of Hubble’s primary mirror. Previously, NASA released test images the JWST took of a star 2,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major (HD 84406).

According to Zurbuchen, who saw the images during a Wednesday briefing with other NASA officials, the first-light images it has taken provide a “new worldview” into the cosmos. Addressing what it was like to see the first-light images at the Wednesday news conference, Zarbuchen said:

“The images are being taken right now. There is already some amazing science in the can, and some others are yet to be taken as we go forward. We are in the middle of getting the history-making data down. It’s really hard to not look at the Universe in a new light and not just have a moment that is deeply personal. It’s an emotional moment when you see nature suddenly releasing some of its secrets, and I would like you to imagine and look forward to that.”

During the news conference, NASA officials said that the images and other data would include the deepest-field image of the Universe ever taken. The previous record-holder was the image acquired as part of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which included 10,000 galaxies of various ages, colors, and distances in the direction of the constellation Fornax. The 100 oldest galaxies in the image (shown below) appear deep red and were dated to just 800 million years after the Big Bang, making them the most distant and oldest ever viewed.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field of Galaxies

This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

The James Webb images peer even further into the cosmos and reveal what galaxies looked like just a few hundred million years after the

As a result, astronomers have been unable to see what the earliest galaxies looked like since their formation coincided with the Dark Ages. But thanks to its advanced infrared imaging capabilities, James Webb can pierce the veil of “darkness” and see what galaxies initially looked like. This will allow scientists to model and simulate the evolution of cosmic structures with far greater

There are many other things that James Webb will study during its primary science operations (which will last until 2028) and its ten-year mission (which is expected to be extended to 20 years). This will include the dust and gas that make up the interstellar medium (ISM), debris disks around young stars, planetary systems in the process of formation, cooler objects like M-type (red dwarf) stars and brown dwarfs, and the center of the

Originally published on Universe Today.