Well, this just shows that Hubble’s successor is going to more than fulfill its potential.
The first full-color scientific image from the JWST, the largest and most potent observatory ever launched into space, was unveiled today by President Joe Biden. The first image of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 has been released, and we are in awe. Last week NASA teased the five targets for the first scientific work the telescope has been conducting.
More than any previous telescope, JWST can see farther into the cosmos. We are now getting to see what it can do after 14 years of delays and a cost of about $10 billion.
This is the clearest photograph ever taken of the infrared universe. Given that one of the Science Themes chosen for the telescope, the study of the early universe, corresponds perfectly with SMACS 0723, choosing it as one of the first targets makes sense.
Given that the speed of light is limited, JWST’s impressive eye will be able to see farther into the universe than any observatory before it, which entails looking back in time. The first galaxies and stars are at the edge of what it can see.
Gravitational lensing offers assistance in this study of the early universe. This occurs when a large foreground object warps the light of distant galaxies behind it, enlarging and making them more observable.
One such lens is SMACS 0723, a galaxy cluster with a stellar mass that includes a central galaxy that is 358 billion times as massive as the Sun. It is a perfect lens for the galaxies that existed 13.5 billion years ago and are visible in the image as arcs or multiple images of the same galaxy because it is 4.2 billion light-years away.
Such systems have been studied by Hubble and will undoubtedly be examined by JWST.
Tomorrow, four additional images covering every facet of the observatory’s scientific themes will be made public. It’s crucial to emphasize that this is only the beginning. The anticipation is palpable as astronomers and scientific institutions from all over the world prepare to receive data from JWST that will significantly advance our understanding of the early universe.
“My team and our collaborators are principally interested in using JWST to find and investigate the Universe’s farthest galaxies. We will observe these objects from the early universe, and some of them may be forming stars for the first time, according to Dr. Stephen Wilkins of the University of Sussex in the UK, who spoke with IFLScience.
With Webb, we will be able to measure their precise properties, including how “enriched” they are with heavy elements, in addition to finding them.
Dr. Wilkins was prepared to respond when asked why JWST will be a game-changer for this research. “It’s the combination of sensitivity (due to a bigger telescope in space), wavelength range (Webb extends much further into the infrared than Hubble), and that it can also do spectroscopy, which is crucial for example to measure chemical abundance’s.
“We have all three of these, and any one of them would be revolutionary.”
The first image released today marks the start of a new era in astronomy.