Tomorrow, 12th July 2022, the first science-quality images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be released. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
Webb’s Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) was developed by the Canadian Space Agency. Recently it captured a view of stars and galaxies that provides a tantalizing glimpse at what the telescope’s science instruments will reveal in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Bright stars stand out with their six, long, sharply defined diffraction spikes – an effect due to Webb’s six-sided mirror segments. Beyond the stars – galaxies fill nearly the entire background.
The result – using 72 exposures over 32 hours – is among the deepest images of the universe ever taken, according to Webb scientists.
In the above image, the FGS image was acquired in parallel with NIRCam imaging of the star HD147980 over a period of 8 days at the beginning of May. This image represents 32 hours of exposure time at several overlapping pointings of the Guider 2 channel. The observations were not optimized for detection of faint objects, but nevertheless the image captures extremely faint objects and is, for now, the deepest image of the infrared sky. The unfiltered wavelength response of the guider, from 0.6 to 5 micrometers, helps provide this extreme sensitivity. The image is mono-chromatic and is displayed in false color with white-yellow-orange-red representing the progression from brightest to dimmest. The bright star (at 9.3 magnitude) on the right hand edge is 2MASS 16235798+2826079. There are only a handful of stars in this image – distinguished by their diffraction spikes. The rest of the objects are thousands of faint galaxies, some in the nearby universe, but many, many more in the high redshift universe.
This is the list of cosmic objects that Webb targeted for these first observations, which will be released in NASA’s live broadcast beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 12. Each image will simultaneously be made available on social media as well as on the agency’s website.
- Carina Nebula. The Carina Nebula is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, located approximately 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. Nebulae are stellar nurseries where stars form. The Carina Nebula is home to many massive stars, several times larger than the Sun.
- WASP-96 b (spectrum). WASP-96 b is a giant planet outside our solar system, composed mainly of gas. The planet, located nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth, orbits its star every 3.4 days. It has about half the mass of Jupiter, and its discovery was announced in 2014.
- Southern Ring Nebula. The Southern Ring, or “Eight-Burst” nebula, is a planetary nebula – an expanding cloud of gas, surrounding a dying star. It is nearly half a light-year in diameter and is located approximately 2,000 light years away from Earth.
- Stephan’s Quintet: About 290 million light-years away, Stephan’s Quintet is located in the constellation Pegasus. It is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877. Four of the five galaxies within the quintet are locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters.
- SMACS 0723: Massive foreground galaxy clusters magnify and distort the light of objects behind them, permitting a deep field view into both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations.
More information on how to join NASA for the release of Webb’s first images is available online. For more about Webb’s status, visit the “Where Is Webb?” tracker.