NASA shared an incredibly sharp image of a nearby galaxy, captured by his new James Webb Space Telescope.
For comparison, he also shared an image of the same galaxy captured by his now retired Spitzer Space Telescope launched in 2003 and was the first to provide high-resolution images of the near- and mid-infrared universe.
While Spitzer’s image shows a blur of about seven nearby stars located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy orbiting the Milky Way, James Webb’s image captured the foreground stars in sharp detail.
It also reveals finer details such as thin clouds of interstellar gas and hundreds of stars and galaxies in the background in what NASA calls “unprecedented detail”.
The two images illustrate the tremendous advances in space photography made with the new James Webb Telescope, now that all four of its scientific instruments are in “perfect alignment”.
Two images of the Large Magellanic Cloud captured by Spitzer (left) and Webb (right). Webb’s image not only shows stars in the foreground in sharp detail, but also more subtle details such as thin clouds of interstellar gas and hundreds of stars and galaxies in the background.
Instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope
NIRCam (Near InfraRed Camera) an infrared imager from the edge of the visible through the near infrared
NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) will also perform spectroscopy on the same wavelength range.
MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) will measure the wavelength range of the mid-long infrared from 5 to 27 micrometers.
FGS / NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph), is used to stabilize the observatory’s line of sight during scientific observations.
“I am pleased to report that the telescope alignment has been completed with even better performance than we expected,” said Michael McElwain, James Webb Space Telescope Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, according to CBS News.
‘In practice we have achieved perfect alignment of the telescope. There is no adjustment to the telescope optics that makes material improvements to our scientific performance. ‘
The $ 10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was launched in December 2021 and is expected to be fully operational by the end of June 2022.
It is set to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics.
The telescope is made up of 18 hexagonal mirror segments, mounted together into a single large 21-foot wide mirror.
During its decade or more in orbit, Webb will be used by teams of astronomers to study a wide variety of celestial phenomena, from exoplanets to black holes.
It is able to peer into the history of the universe more than any other space telescope before it, thanks in part to its location 930,000 miles from Earth.
James Webb has four key tools on board: a Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), a Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec), a Mid-InfraRed (MIRI) instrument and a fine guide sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS / NIRISS).
The test image was captured by MIRI, which is Webb’s coolest instrument, at 7.7 microns.
It is compared to a past image of the same target taken with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope infrared camera at 8.0 microns.
SLIDE TO REVEAL: The same view of the Large Magellanic Cloud – a satellite galaxy orbiting the Milky Way – captured by the Spitzer and Webb space telescopes
The Webb Space Telescope is comprised of 18 hexagonal mirror segments, mounted together in a large 21-foot-wide mirror.
NASA said Webb, with its significantly larger primary mirror and improved detectors, will allow scientists to see the infrared sky with greater clarity, enabling even more discoveries.
Scientists predict that Webb will be able to view distant objects up to 100 times too faint to be seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.
With its instruments aligned, the Webb telescope now awaits a final calibration of the instrument before officially starting the study of distant stars by the end of the summer.
In July, the telescope will share its first suite of scientific images, targeting galaxies and objects that “highlight all themes of the Webb sciences … from the early Universe, to galaxies over time, the life cycle of stars and others. worlds, “said Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE
The James Webb telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even moons and planets in our solar system.
The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $ 7 billion (£ 5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope
The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin, about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
Officials say the cost could exceed the $ 8 billion (£ 5.6 billion) program limit set by Congress. The space agency has already poured $ 7 billion (£ 5 billion) into the telescope.
When launched in 2021, it will be the largest and most powerful telescope in the world, capable of peering back 200 million years after the Big Bang.