Stardust and galaxies: see new images from the James Webb telescope

This Tuesday (12), the first complete package of scientific images made by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The images were revealed in a live broadcast carried out by NASA (United States space agency).

The first image released on Tuesday was of the spectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b, a giant from outside the Solar System with half the mass of Jupiter. The discovery of WASP-96 b was announced in 2014.

JWSTSpectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STSc

According to NASA, the telescope picked up a distinct signature of the presence of water, and evidence of clouds and haze in the gas planet’s atmosphere. WASP-96 b is orbiting a Sun-like star.

The second image was taken by two James Webb cameras and shows the end of a star’s life: the Southern Ring nebula (NGC 3132).

JWSTImage taken by the James Webb Space Telescope shows the Southern Ring Nebula, a star at the end of its life (credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

The photo shows the waves of gas and dust expelled by the star at its center after an explosion. “Webb will allow astronomers to better understand planetary nebulae like the one seen in the image — clouds of gas and dust expelled by dying stars. Understanding what molecules are present, and where they are in the layers of gas and dust, will help researchers refine their knowledge of these celestial objects,” NASA said in a statement.

The group of five galaxies known as Stephan’s Quintet appears in the third image released on Tuesday (12).

JWSTStephan’s Quintet, group of five galaxies, imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

The photo is made from a collection of nearly 1,000 separate images, and shows millions of young stars. The image may offer new insights into interactions between galaxies, NASA says in a statement.

In the last image released, it is possible to see the Carina nebula with unprecedented beauty and details. The region in the photo is called NGC 3324.

JWSTImage taken by the James Webb Space Telescope of the Carina nebula

The nebula is located 7,600 light-years from Earth in the constellation Carina. There, gigantic new stars are born, some of them much larger than our Sun.

The JWST is an infrared telescope capable of revealing details of the universe that our eyes and older telescopes cannot capture. The device was launched into space on December 25, 2021, after a series of delays. As the total cost of the equipment was about 10 billion dollars (almost R$ 54 billion at the exchange rate on 07/11/2022), the scientists chose to wait for the most suitable and safe time for the launch.

The super telescope, considered a successor to Hubble, is the result of a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). According to NASA, the main industrial partner of the project is Northrop Grumman.

On Monday night (11), the first image was released at a live-streamed event. The photo announcement was made by US President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Bill Nelson, Administrator of NASA (United States Space Agency).

The first image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, full of details. There are hundreds of distant galaxies, never seen so clearly. According to NASA, the image covers a piece of our sky equivalent to a grain of sand seen from an outstretched arm’s distance.

JWSTFirst scientific image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

In the photo, SMACS 0723 appears to us as it was 4.6 billion years ago, according to NASA. These galaxies are so far away from us that their light takes a long time to reach our position in space. So when we look through telescopes, we see the past.

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