During a brief event at the White House on Monday night, President Biden released an image that NASA and astronomers hailed as the deepest-ever image of our universe’s past.
Image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope – the largest space telescope ever built – shows a distant sky in which nascent galaxies are burning at full force in view of just 600 million years after the Big Bang.
“This is the oldest light recorded in the history of the universe from 13 billion – I’ll say it again, 13 billion – years ago,” Biden said. The president, who apologized for the slow start of the event, commended NASA for their work in triggering the telescope and the images it would produce.
“We can see possibilities that no one has seen before,” Biden said. “We can go places no one has gone before.”
Mr. Biden’s announcement served as a trailer for the telescope’s big cosmic show Tuesday morning, as scientists revealed what Webb had been looking at over the past six months. You can Sign up here to be reminded on your personal digital calendar to get a first look at them.
For Mr. Biden, the release of the images is also an opportunity to participate first-hand in an event that will almost certainly stir up American surprise and pride – at a time when acceptance rates are low. His approval has plummeted as voters recede from high food and gas prices and Democrats question his ability to fight for gun control and abortion rights.
Against a backdrop in the White House’s South Auditorium that evokes footage from the bridge of a star ship on “Star Trek,” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris featured Alondra Nelson, acting director of the Office. White House Science and Technology Policy ; Bill Nelson, a former Florida senator appointed by Mr. Biden as NASA administrator; and Jane Rigby, an operations project scientist for the Webb telescope. Each sat at small, spaced tables in front of a large screen, where other NASA officials appeared. The screen gave way to an image of the universe, speckled with tiny dots of galaxies and drawing applause from the far side of the room.
Mr. Nelson, director of NASA, introduced the scientific potential of this telescope at the White House event.
“We’ll be able to answer questions that we don’t even know what the question is,” he said. When he added that the technology could determine if other planets are habitable, Mr. Biden responded with a “Wow.”
As the ceremony ended and the reporting team was escorted out of the room, Mr. Biden was heard saying: “I wonder what the press is like elsewhere.”
Learn more about the James Webb . Space Telescope
After traveling nearly a million miles to a location beyond the moon, the James Webb Space Telescope will spend years observing the universe.
One of the Webb telescope’s most ambitious missions is to study some of the first stars and galaxies that lit up the universe shortly after the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. While Monday’s snapshot may not have come close to that, it demonstrated the principle of the technique and hinted at what more comes from the telescope’s scientific instruments, the fifth of its kind. which astronomers have been waiting decades to put online.
As the telescope “gathers more data in the years to come, we’ll be looking to the edge of the Universe like never before,” said Priyamvada Natarajan, of Yale University, an expert on black holes and primordial galaxies. birth, said in an email from India.
She added, “It was beyond my wildest imagination that we could see the edge of black holes, and the edge of the universe.”
What is the image that NASA and Biden show?
On Friday, NASA released a list of five objects that Webb recorded with its instruments. But Mr. Biden showed off one of them at the White House on Monday.
The image is called SMACS 0723. It’s a patch of sky visible from the Southern Hemisphere on Earth and is often visited by Hubble and other telescopes in search of the deep past. It consists of a massive galaxy cluster about 4 billion light-years away that astronomers use as a kind of cosmic telescope. The cluster’s massive gravitational field acts as a lens, warping and magnifying the light from the galaxies behind it, which would otherwise be too dim and far away to be seen.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for space science, described the image as the most insightful view ever of our universe.
Marcia Rieke of the University of Arizona, head of the NIRCam building, one of the cameras on the Webb telescope that took the image, said, “This image won’t hold the record for ‘deepest’ for long but it clearly shows the power strength of this. telescope. “
What about the rest of the images?
NASA will show other images at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday in a live video stream you can watch on NASA TV or YouTube. They will be demonstrated at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
The paintings that constitute a tour of the universe are painted in colors that the human eye has never seen – invisible infrared or thermal radiation. A small team of astronomers and science outreach experts have chosen the images to showcase the new telescope’s capabilities and cause public outrage.
There’s the Southern Ring Nebula, a shell of gas ejected from a dying star about 2,000 light-years ago, and the Carina Nebula, a giant vortex of gas and stars that includes several giant star systems and has the most explosive potential in the Milky Way.
Yet another familiar astronomical scene is Stephan’s Quartet, a tight galaxy cluster about 290 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus.
The team will also release a detailed spectrum of an alien planet known as WASP-96b, a gas giant half the mass of Jupiter that orbits a star 1,150 light-years from here every year. Once every 3 or 4 days. Such a spectrum is kind of detailed can reveal what’s in that world’s atmosphere.
Why did it take so long to share the first images of Webb?
Going into space on Christmas Day last year was just the first step for the James Webb Space Telescope.
The spacecraft has been orbiting the second Lagrange point, or L2, about a million miles from Earth since January 24. At L2, the gravitational pull of the sun and Earth keeps Webb in motion around the sun. synchronized with the motion of the Earth.
Before getting there, the telescope pieces had to be carefully unwrapped: a sunshade that kept the instruments cold so it could accurately capture faint infrared light, 18 pieces of gold-plated hexagonal mirrors.
For astronomers, engineers and observers on Earth, deployment is a stressful time. There were 344 single failures, meaning that if any of the actions failed, the telescope would end up as a useless piece of space junk. They all worked.
The telescope’s four scientific instruments must also be turned on. In the months after the telescope arrived at L2, its operators carefully aligned 18 mirrors. In April, the Medium Infrared Instrument, or MIRI, which requires the coldest temperatures, was cooled down to minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit. Once these and other steps are taken, the science can begin.
How does Webb compare to the Hubble telescope?
The Webb telescope’s main mirror is 6.5 meters in diameter, compared to Hubble’s 2.4 meters, giving Webb seven times more light-gathering capacity and thus the ability to see farther in space. time and deeper into the past.
Another important difference is that Webb is equipped with cameras and other devices that are sensitive to infrared, or “thermal” radiation. The expansion of the universe causes light of normally visible wavelengths to be converted to longer infrared wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye.