Nasa shares stunning image from James Webb telescope

Nasa is offering a sneak preview of the stunning Webb telescope imagery to be released on 12 July

Jon Kelvey
Friday 08 July 2022 15:47 BST
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A preview image of what the James Webb Space Telescope will deliver, taking with a guidance camera rather than the observatories primary instruments
A preview image of what the James Webb Space Telescope will deliver, taking with a guidance camera rather than the observatories primary instruments (Nasa)

While the world waits for Nasa to release the first fully processed images from the now operational James Webb Space Telescope on 12 July, the space agency has released a teaser image to whet everyones’ appetite.

In a Wednesday blog post, Nasa released an image taken with Webb’s Fine Guidance System, an instrument that typically helps point the telescope at celestial objects to image with Webb’s more powerful, dedicated infrared instruments.

But for a system that isn’t designed to produce stunning imagery the Fine Guidance System over-performed: The resulting monochromatic image shows bright spiky stars and thousands of distant galaxies in a palate of orange and burnt umber.

The image is the result of 72 exposures over 32 hours, and is one of the deepest images of the Cosmos ever taken. Although Webb will soon go deeper, peering further into the reaches of the universe than ever before.

“The faintest blobs in this image are exactly the types of faint galaxies that Webb will study in its first year of science operations,” Jane Rigby, Webb operations scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

Just such a full resolution, color image of the deepest galaxies in the Cosmos is among the images to be released on 12 July, according to statements by Nasa administrator Bill Nelson.

More than 20 years and $10 billion in the making, the Webb telescope launched from the European spaceport in French Guiana on Christmas Day, and spent more than a month traveling to its operational orbit 1 million miles from Earth. Ground operators and scientists have spent the last six months configuring, aligning, focusing, testing and commission Webb’s mirrors and instruments in preparation for a science mission expected to last 20 years or more.

The images scheduled for release on 12 July are part of the Webb early observations program, a form of final testing and public outreach to demonstrate to the world what the telescope is capable of. Nasa recently acknowledged some of the targets of those early observations, including the Carina nebula, a bright nebular 7,600 light-years in the southern constellation Carina, and the ring nebula, a cloud of expanding gas around a dying star 2,000 light years from Earth.

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