L2 LEGRANGE POINT (WHTM) – Stars being born, Stars dying, and a cosmic dance of galaxies; just some of the first scientific images from the Webb telescope unveiled today, in a planet wide webcast by NASA. Webb Project Manager made an announcement that brought cheers from the audience.
“Over the weekend, we finished the last commissioning activities, so we are officially done with commissioning. “
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here.
Launched on Christmas day last year from the European Space Agency spaceport in French Guiana, the Webb telescope spent a month traveling to its destination, the L2 Lagrange point, where the gravitational pulls of Earth and Sun balance out, and things put there tend to stay there. The telescope has spent the last 6 months getting tested and tweaked, with the occasional release of test images, tantalizing glimpses of what was to come- a deep look into the early stages of the universe.
John Mather, Webb Senior Project Scientist, helped determine the precise-or as precise as current science can make it-date of the Big Bang. He joined the Webb project because it has the potential to fill in a lot of blanks.
“What happened after the Big Bang, how did the galaxies grow, how did the first black holes grow, what happened all the way from there to here. So this is our time machine, and I just wanted to be part of it, and I’m so thrilled we got a chance to do it.”
Unlike the early test images, which came in shades of red interspersed with other shades of red. The scientific images are in full color. The images look even more spectacular when compared with earlier images from less powerful telescopes. Today we saw more detail, more color-and to the delight of the scientists, more mysteries. Amber Straughn, Webb Deputy Project Scientist, pointed to an example, some structures (for want of a better term) in the Webb image of the Carina Nebula
“We see examples of structures that honestly, we don’t even know what they are, like what’s going on here? The data is just so rich.”
The Webb now embarks on a series of science missions. In the first year alone it’s slated to study (among other things) black holes and the origins of the earliest stars. Scientists hope that what we learn out there from the Webb will- maybe- tell us a bit about where we came from.
“Our sun, our planets, and ultimately us,” says Amber Straughn, pointing to the nebula picture, “Were formed out of the same kind of stuff we see here.”