President Joe Biden has released the first full-colored image from the James Webb Space Telescope today at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, before NASA releases the rest of the images tomorrow, July 12, at 10:30 a.m.
Spectators can witness the first image of deep space provided by the Webb Telescope through NASA Live.
The Webb Telescope succeeds its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, as the first space mission to capture images of the universe from as early as 13 billion years ago. To compare, the universe is around 13.5 billion years old.
“We’re going to give humanity a new view of the cosmos, and it’s a view that we’ve never seen before,” said Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, during a media conference on June 29. “Webb is nothing short of a scientific feat.”
On July 12, NASA will release several images taken from the Webb Telescope, among those some of the deepest images of the universe ever to be taken. Webb will not only capture the closest image humanity has ever seen to the beginning of the universe, but may also help discover the possibility of life on other planets.
“It may answer some questions that we have. Where do we come from? What more is out there? Who are we?” Nelson said.
The use of infrared light from the telescope will help detect vibrating molecules, such as CO2, in the atmospheres of exoplanets. These “fingerprints,” as Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the science directorate, referred to them, will help scientists better understand the shape of the atmosphere of these planets.
“We know on Earth the atmosphere really changed when life arose,” Zurbuchen said.
Elements such as carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen are important clues to detecting the potential of exoplanets harboring life.
The James Webb Space Telescope began as an idea back in 1989 during the Next Generation Space Telescope Workshop in Baltimore, MD, hosted by NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute. In 1996, those workshop conversations led to the idea that the next telescope should be built using a mirror over four meters long and operate on infrared light.
The actual construction of the Webb Telescope began in 2004 and was launched into space December 25, 2021. This space mission was an international collaboration between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. Labor on this telescope involved the work of thousands of engineers, scientists, and technicians across 14 countries and 29 states in the U.S. and Washington, D.C.
“Under Thomas’s leadership, we have exposed the risk and the excitement and the drama but, most of all, the uncertainty that happens as part of the scientific process,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “It’s a great example of what the government can do in science.”
The scientists who led the media briefing in June described their reactions upon seeing some of the first images taken by the Webb Telescope.
“It’s not an image– it’s a new world you’re going to see,” Zurbuchen said. “Nature giving up secrets that have been there for many, many decades, centuries, millennia, forever for where we are as humans.”
By Hannah Shields
Photo Credit : NASA Webb Telescope Twitter