An atmosphere of a world 1,000 light years away, among the discoveries of James Webb

NASA has released the first images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, after the first revelation made public by the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

The impressive first scientific photograph of the James Webb, that Biden presented last Monday is a view of the universe showing thousands of galaxies. It is a demonstration of the immense power of $10,000 million (€9,974 million) telescope. NASA has released more images of the telescope’s first sightings, photos taken during its first months of operation after launch in December 2021.

One of these observations was a detailed study of the atmosphere of a gas giant planet 1,000 light years from Earth, named WASP-96 b. Observing the dimming of light as the planet passed in front of its host star, the James Webb he was able to explore this world’s atmosphere, a technique he would use to study many other planets in the future.

“You see bulges and movements that indicate the presence of water vapor in the atmosphereKnicole Colón, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and assistant scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope project for the scientific study of exoplanets, explained during a NASA event that revealed the observations.

“These are probably the most difficult observations the James Webb Space Telescope will make,” says Don Pollacco, an astronomer at the University of Warwick in the UK. It is expected that the James Webb have an unrivaled ability to search for methane and other possible signs of life in the atmospheres of planets similar in size to ours.

South Ring Nebula, NGC 3132, Eight Burst Nebula

Photo: Instruments aboard the ‘James Webb’ captured these two images of the South Ring Nebula, located about 2,500 light-years away. Credits: NASA, ESA, ASC, STSCI.

The picture that the James Webb captured of a dying star losing its outer layers, the so-called planetary nebula known as the South Ring Nebula which lies approximately 2,500 light years from Earth. This image is much more detailed than the one I had taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1998 there reveals for the first time the two stars known to be at the heart of the nebula.

Another image (the one shown at the top of this article) reveals a beautiful view of Stephan’s Quintet, the group of five galaxies about 300 million light-years from Earth. Four of these galaxies interact and transfer gas and dust to each other. The picture of James Webb of galaxies in infrared light shows like never before how these interactions lead to the formation of stars in galaxies. The power of optics James Webb is so big that even some individual stars can be seen in galaxies. “It’s impressive,” says Mark McCaughrean, senior science and exploration adviser at the European Space Agency. “We are ready to take full advantage of this telescope.”

Star forming region in the Carina Nebula

Photo: The edge of the star forming region in the Carina Nebula, captured by the ‘James Webb’. Credits: NASA, ESA, ASC, STSCI

The final image offered was a new look at the Carina Nebula, an active star-forming region nearly 8,000 light-years from Earth. The magnificent view revealed by JWST reveals hundreds of new stars never seen before, and even structures in the dust and gas of the nebula that cannot yet be explained, according to Amber Straughn, astrophysicist at NASA Goddard and assistant scientist of the project for JWST. .

Thanks to JWST, “we can see a lot more detail,” Straughn says. “It really reveals what’s going on here.”

First image from the James Webb Space Telescope

Photo: This “deep field” image of the galaxy-filled “James Webb” was released last Monday by President Biden. Credits: NASA, ESA, ASC and STSCI.

These images are just an exciting first part of what’s to come from the James Webb. The telescope has just started its first year of scientific observations program. Countless breathtaking views and vast amounts of priceless data await us soon.

“This is a new window into the history of our universe,” President Biden said. “We see the first light shining through this window.”

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