The first observations of the James Webb telescope revealed to the world

Spread the love

The first observations of the James Webb telescope revealed to the world

Stephan Quintet mosaic covering about one-fifth the diameter of the Moon.

The first data collection carried out by the James Webb Space Telescope was presented by NASA and its partners, the European (ESA) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies .

The images revealed are those of the Carina and Southern Ring nebulae, as well as the galaxies of Stephan's Quintet. The very first spectroscopy of the telescope, that of the exoplanet WASP-96 b, was also made public.

Professor René Doyon of the University of Montreal, one of the designers of the two Canadian instruments on board the telescope, attended the presentation which took place at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, near Washington.

This is an emotional moment for me and all Canadian partners. It's a bit cliché, but it's a new chapter in the history of astronomy that is opening, said the Quebec astrophysicist who participates in the James Webb mission. for twenty years.

“I was surprised to see the quality of the images, even though I knew the power of the telescope instruments. »

— René Doyon

Young star nursery, NGC 3324, in the Carina Nebula.

Young star nursery NGC 3324, named Cosmic Cliffs, is located in the Carina Nebula. Carina, approximately 7600 light years from Earth.

This image obtained using the near-infrared imager NIRCam reveals regions of star formation that had never been observed before. It actually shows hundreds of previously invisible stars, but also many galaxies in the background.

View larger

Comparison showing observations, using the Webb telescope, of the Southern Ring Nebula in the near infrared, on the left, and in the mid infrared, on the right.

In this image, the Southern Ring Nebula appears in the near infrared, on the left, and in the mid-infrared, on the right. It is possible to observe a huge cloud of expanding gas surrounding a binary system of stars.

This cloud is made up of the remains of a white dwarf star like the Sun after it shed its outer layers and burned up all its fuel by nuclear fusion.

The brightest star in both images has yet to shed its outer layers.

It is located about 2000 light-years from Earth and its diameter is almost half a light year.

Enlarge image

Mosaic of Stephan's Quintet covering about one-fifth the diameter of the Moon.

These five galaxies located about 290 million light-years from Earth form the first group of compact galaxies discovered in 1877. In fact, however, only four of these galaxies are in gravitational interaction and form a cosmic dance, where they come and go near each other repeatedly.

The over 150 million pixel image is composed from nearly 1000 separate observations. Visual grouping of the five galaxies was performed with the NIRCam near-infrared imager and MIRI mid-infrared instrument.

The very first spectroscopy of the telescope, that of the exoplanet WASP-96 b, has also been made public.

This technique makes it possible to determine the spectrum of a celestial object which contains information on the chemical and molecular elements of its atmosphere. The Canadian instrument NIRISS (Near Infrared Slitless Imager and Spectrograph) unambiguously allowed the presence of water molecules in the atmosphere of the planet. Evidence of clouds and haze in the atmosphere of this gas giant planet located nearly 1150 light-years from Earth has also been provided by NIRISS.

View larger image

Webb's NIRISS light curve shows the variation in brightness of the WASP- planetary system 96 as the planet transits.

WASP-96 b was discovered in 2014. It circles its star in 3.4 days. Its mass is about half that of Jupiter.

The first image, the deepest taken of the Universe to date, was presented Monday by US President Joe Biden.

Enlarge image

Webb's first deep field.

It shows in unparalleled detail galaxies formed a few hundred million years after the big bang, about 13.1 billion years ago.

“We hope, in the next few years, to be able to see objects from 13.5 billion years ago. »

— René Doyon

This first deep field of Webb was obtained using the phenomenon of gravitational lensing which, like a giant cosmic magnifying glass, makes it possible to see behind galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 and magnify the galaxies therein.

The cluster appears as it did 4.6 billion years ago, but the lens allows thousands of much older galaxies to be seen behind it, including the fainter celestial objects which had never been observed.

In the coming years, astrophysicists will analyze this image in order to better understand their mass, age and composition.

The size of this image is roughly equivalent to that of an observation of a grain of sand held at arm's length.

The James Webb Telescope was launched on December 25 from French Guiana. It is able to look further into the Universe than any other telescope thanks to its huge main mirror and its four instruments that perceive infrared signals, which allow it to pierce through clouds of dust.

It reached its workplace 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in January and its scientific structures and instruments are now deployed, calibrated and tested.

The publication of these results marks the transition between the commissioning phase of the telescope and the start of its scientific mission.

During the first five months of the mission, James Webb's instruments will be used exclusively by teams associated with the initial thirteen observing programs which were selected following a competition based on their scientific interest in astronomy research.

Several Canadian and Quebec scientists participate in these programs.

We come back to these impressive images captured by the James Webb telescope with André Grandchamps, astrophysicist at the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan.

Canada is providing two of the four Webb mission-critical instruments: NIRISS (for Near-Infrared Slitless Imager and Spectrograph) and FGS (Precision Guidance Sensor).

The NIRISS collected some of the data that was shared at the press conference.

NIRISS has specialized imaging capabilities for studying the atmospheres of exoplanets and very distant galaxies , notes Nathalie Ouellette, scientist in charge of communications for James Webb in Canada and coordinator of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx).

As for the FGS, her work is also at the heart of the announcements and all those that will follow, since it is the guiding detector that allows the telescope to point an object and carry out observations with stability and precision.

Previous Article
Next Article