First images released from James Webb Space Telescope

Science News

(NewsNation) — Get ready to learn more about the planet we live on and how galaxies assemble. The very first full color images from the James Webb Space Telescope were revealed Monday at a White House event.

The telescope is the largest and most complex space observatory ever built. It is expected to transform our view of the universe.

Space communications expert Alexandra Doten joined NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Monday to discuss the new images. She explained that the images are the most powerful ever seen.

“The Hubble Deep Field set the stage for what we know as seeing thousands of galaxies in one photo, but the James Webb Space Telescope is 100 times more powerful,” Doten said. “If you held a grain of sand at arm’s length up to the sky, that’s what we’re seeing in this image.”

Doten says since there are thousands of galaxies, the new images provide more perspective. She described a few key differences in the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Deep Field.

“First of all, the James Webb Space Telescope photographs in infrared light, so that means it can see the oldest stars in the entire universe, stars that are so old that their light, their wavelengths have stretched with space itself, which makes them redder, and James Webb Space Telescope photographs in infrared light. Hubble photographs in visible light. So it’s pretty similar to when we look out at space,” Doten said.

This March 5, 2020 photo made availalble by NASA shows the main mirror assembly of the James Webb Space Telescope during testing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. (Chris Gunn/NASA via AP)

She also added that the Webb telescope has a wider field of view than Hubble, and its resolution is the most powerful ever seen.

With that in mind, Doten insists the James Webb Space Telescope will help people understand the origins of the universe and the origins of galaxies. The image displays both massive and distant galaxies along with nearer stars.

“What I find spectacular about this image is from what I’ve seen, briefly, the immense gravitational lensing, which is when gravity distorts the light, and you can see that in stripes of galaxies in that image,” Doten said. “That’s really interesting, because one of James Webb’s main missions is to understand more about dark matter and dark energy […]  So I do think that this photo was chosen strategically to hint at those goals of James Webb and show how much gravity is in the universe.”

The first image released from the $10 billion telescope will be followed by four more shots from the telescope Tuesday. The images are expected to show a nebula where stars are born and die, as well as five clustered galaxies and a gaseous planet outside of the solar system.

NASA is working on the Webb Telescope with the Canadian and European space agencies.

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