Until now, it has been difficult to see the earliest universe and a new image showing it has been released.
The clearest image to date of the early universe, going back 13 billion years, has been released – and it doesn’t disappoint. A stunning photo of thousands of galaxies, released by President Joe Biden in a White House briefing, shows some of the faintest objects observed in a blue, orange, and white hue.
The image, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful to be placed in orbit, covers a patch of the sky “roughly the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone standing on earth”, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said
This image is reportedly the deepest, most detailed infrared view of our universe to date. It contains light that has traveled billions of years from galaxies to reach us.
President Biden noted, “These images will remind the world that America can accomplish great things, and they will also remind our children there is nothing that is beyond our reach.”
- A $10bn machine in search of the end of darkness
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The $10bn James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launched on 25 December last year, is billed as the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope.
Nasa and its international partners, the European and Canadian space agencies, will release further colour imagery from Webb on Tuesday.
One of the topics to be discussed will touch on that other overarching goal: the study of planets outside our Solar System.
Webb has analysed the atmosphere of WASP-96 b, a giant planet located more than 1,000 light-years from Earth. It will tell us about the chemistry of that atmosphere.
WASP-96 b orbits far too close to its parent star to sustain life. But, one day, it’s hoped Webb might spy a planet that has gases in its air that are similar to those that shroud the Earth – a tantalizing prospect that might hint at the presence of biology.
Nasa scientists are in no doubt that Webb will fulfill its promise.
“I have seen the first images and they are spectacular,” deputy project scientist Dr Amber Straughn said of Tuesday’s further release.
“They’re amazing in themselves just as images. But the hints of the detailed science we’re going to be able to do with them is what makes me so excited,” she told BBC News.
Dr Eric Smith, the program scientist for the Webb project, said he thought the public had already grasped the significance of the new telescope.
“The design of Webb, the way Webb looks, I think, is in large part the reason the public is really fascinated by this mission. It looks like a spaceship from the future.”