(CNN) – We’re about to get a whole new perspective on the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope will release the first high-resolution color images on July 12. One of those images “is the deepest image of our universe ever taken,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“If you think about it, it’s further than humanity has ever progressed,” Nelson said. “And we are just beginning to understand what Webb can and will do. It will explore the bodies of the solar system and the atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, potentially giving us clues as to whether their atmospheres are similar to ours.”
Nelson, who reported that he tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday night, was unable to attend the event at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore in person.
The Webb mission, which is estimated to last 10 years, has enough surplus fuel to operate for 20 years, according to NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy.
Meanwhile, Webb’s team is working out the final details of setting up the observatory and its tools for collecting scientific data, which should finish next week, said Bill Ochs, NASA’s Webb project manager.
According to mission engineers, the observatory is performing better than expected. The team continues to work on developing strategies to avoid impacts of micrometeorites, such as those Cut in part from Web Mirror in May.
what are you expecting
The space observatory, which was launched in December, will be able to look at The inner atmosphere of an exoplanet and watch some The first galaxies They were created after the beginning of the universe, and observed through infrared light, invisible to the human eye.
Webb started taking his first photos a couple of weeks ago, and he’s still snapping a few photos that will be shared on July 12. That packet of color images will be the result of 120 hours of monitoring, which is about five days of data.
Eric Smith, Web program scientist and chief scientist for NASA’s Department of Astrophysics, said the telescope’s initial goal was to see the first stars and galaxies in the universe, and to see “the universe lights up for the first time.”
The exact number and nature of the images have not been shared, but “each one will reveal different aspects of the universe with unprecedented detail and sensitivity,” said Klaus Pontopedan, a Webb project scientist at the Institute for Telescope Science. outer space.
The first publication will highlight Webb’s scientific capabilities, as well as the ability of his massive gold mirror and scientific instruments to produce stunning images.
The images will show how galaxies interact and grow and how collisions between galaxies lead to star formation, as well as examples of the violent life cycle of stars. We can expect to see the first spectrum of an exoplanet, or how different wavelengths of light and colors reveal features of other worlds.
The telescope’s instrument, the Near Infrared Imager and Non-Slit Spectrophotometer (FGS-NIRISS), completed preparations this week. The instrument will be able to use a specialized prism to scatter the light collected from cosmic sources and create three distinct rainbows that reveal shades of more than 2,000 infrared colors on a single note.
This is especially useful when looking at exoplanets to determine if they have an atmosphere, and for detecting the atoms and molecules in it when starlight shines through the atmosphere to determine its composition.
Looking to the future
Best of all, Webb’s team is alone at the start of the mission, Pontopedan said, and the data collected by the space observatory will be made public so that scientists around the world can “begin a common journey of exploration.”
The data collected by Webb will allow scientists to make accurate measurements of planets, stars and galaxies in a way that has not been possible before, said Susan Mulally, deputy project scientist for Webb at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
“Webb can look back in time, right after the Big Bang, and look for galaxies so far away that it took light several billion years to get from those galaxies to us,” said Jonathan Gardner, deputy project scientist. .
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, saw some of the first images to be shared on July 12.
“It’s an exciting time when you see nature suddenly reveal some of its secrets,” Zurbuchen said Wednesday. “With this telescope, it’s really hard not to break records.”
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