NASA has released the first photo from its big new $10 billion telescope which has captured the most detailed images ever taken of our cosmos. Brace yourselves because the stats on this thing are mind-blowing.
The first image from the James Webb Space Telescope was unveiled by US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday.
It shows a cluster of galaxies called SMACS 0723 of literally thousands of galaxies and billions of stars.
The deep field image taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) is a composite made from images at different wavelengths which took 12.5 hours to capture.
The camera was designed to read infrared light and is able to give us full-colour photos of space with resolution (basically more pixels) and wavelengths (the kinds of light) never seen before.
UPDATE: One image from @NASAWebb will be previewed today by President Biden at 5:30pm ET (21:30 UTC) ahead of the full set of full-color images & data to be revealed July 12 at 10:30am ET (14:30 UTC): https://t.co/GQefRcrO9e
— NASA (@NASA) July 11, 2022
The camera was also able to reveal much more distant galaxies in the background because the universe’s gravitation distortion allows it to use this galaxy cluster as a lens. Basically this man-made technology turns the universe’s gravity into a natural telescope to magnify those bendy light wavelengths.
Here it is.
It looks incredibly vast, but the patch of universe captured is actually incomprehensible small.
“If you held a grain of sand on the tip of your finger at arm’s length, that is the part of the universe that you’re seeing,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said.
“What you’re seeing are galaxies, galaxies shining around other galaxies, and just a small little portion of the universe.”
Ok let’s get into the sickening numbers. My brain cannot handle the size nor age of what we’re looking at or what’s still to come.
The Webb telescope’s mission is to capture the oldest galaxies in existence so what we’re looking at here is known as “early universe”.
SMACS 0723 appeared 4.6 billion years ago and is about 13 billion light years away from Earth. To put that in perspective, Mars is less than one light year away. I’m vomiting.
This is the farthest away from Earth we have ever seen and therefore the furthest back in time. Yes we are literally seeing an image of galaxies from billions of years ago.
And then last, proof that they’re JUST GOING FOR IT, it’s SMACS 0723. We started quite close, just 1000 light years away, now we are going to look, oh, y’know, 13 or 14 BILLION light years away. And the way we are doing it is MADNESS. pic.twitter.com/SeP7oSGSJo
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) July 11, 2022
More photos will be unveiled on Wednesday and this is only the beginning for this telescope.
I need to lie down for a minute now.