NASA will reveal the “deepest image of our Universe that has ever been taken,” on July 12th, Bill Nelson, a NASA administrator said earlier in the week attributing the achievement to the newly operational James Webb Space Telescope.
During a press briefing at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Nelson said “this is farther than humanity has ever looked before.” The operation center observatory that was launched in December of last year for $10 billion is now orbiting the Sun a million miles away from Earth.
The Webb Space Telescope is a sensation of engineering, as it is able to gaze further into the cosmos than any telescope before it, thanks to its enormous primary mirror and instruments that focus on infrared, allowing it to peer through dust and gas.
“It’s going to explore objects in the solar system and atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, giving us clues as to whether potentially their atmospheres are similar to our own,” added Nelson, speaking via phone while isolating with COVID-19.
Nelson further said that some questions potentially answered by Webb include those about our origins and about what else might be out there. Its infrared capabilities allow it to see deeper back in time to the Big Bang of 13.8 billion years ago.
The Spectroscopy tool in Webb will analyze the chemical and molecular composition of distant objects, and a planetary spectrum can help characterize its atmosphere and other properties such as the existence of water and the composition of its surface.
NASA’s Webb telescope can observe the Universe
The earliest cosmological observations currently date to within 330 million years of the Big Bang, but with Webb’s capacities, astronomers believe they will easily break the record.
Due to the continuous expansion of the universe, light from the earliest stars shifts from the ultraviolet and visible wavelengths it was emitted in to longer, infrared wavelengths equipped in the Webb telescope. Unprecedented resolutions can be detected.
Due to the efficient launch by NASA‘s partner, Arianespace, the telescope could remain operational for twenty years, which would be twice the lifespan initially envisaged. This was revealed by NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy.
Pam Melroy further said, “Not only will those 20 years allow us to go deeper into history, and time, but we will go deeper into science because we have the opportunity to learn and grow and make new observations.”
Nestor Espinoza, an STSI astronomer, said that previous exoplanet spectroscopies carried out using existing instruments were quite limited compared to what Webb could do.
NASA also intends to share Webb’s first spectroscopy of a faraway planet, known as an exoplanet, on July 12th, according to NASA’s top scientist, Thomas Zurbuchen.
“Right from the beginning, we’ll look at these worlds out there that keep us awake at night as we look into the starry sky and wonder […if] there [is] life elsewhere?” said Zurbuchen.