It is often said, a picture is worth a thousand words and the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope did not disappoint.
During the news conference on July 12, the world had a ringside seat to the most remarkable images of the universe ever taken.
Over the hour, five images left us wanting more. This is only the type of the cosmic iceberg.
The deep field image showed thousands of galaxies including a few that look stretched. This is not a flaw in the telescope.
It is the distortion caused by gravity from a foreground large galaxy. Einstein predicted this warping or the curvature of the fabric of space-time, much like someone standing on a trampoline where the rubber mat is distorted.
The larger the object, the bigger the distortion of light. To show the power of James Webb, the area of space where the deep field image was taken was as small as a grain of sand held at arm’s length.
This cluster is located 4.6 billion light-years away. That is the amount of time it took the light to reach us and when the sun and planets were slowly being created from the solar nebula.
Photo credit: Gary Boyle” src=”https://www.kelownanow.com/files/files/images/Gary%20v2%20(3).jpg” style=”margin: 5px;”/>
When completed, the 18 gold-plated six-sided honeycomb-style mirrors measure a total width of 6.5 meters wide compared to Hubble’s 2.4-meter wide single mirror.
This results in more light-gathering power along with its infrared capability to observe heat signatures through clouds of interstellar dust. Another critical part of the telescope is the sun shield measuring the size of a tennis court.
Comprised of lightweight material with special thermal properties, the five layers will provide a shield from the sun’s heat and light as well as the heat of its instruments allowing the sensitive infrared to work without interference.
The mirror will operate at -223 degrees Celsius and the rest of the equipment close to absolute zero or -273 degrees Celsius.
In the wise words of Carl Sagan, “somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,” The James Webb Space Telescope has opened a new portal to discovery. Will we someday glimpse the first stars and infant galaxies dating back 13.8 billion years? Only time will tell.
Known as “The Backyard Astronomer.” Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guest speaker and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as well as past president of the Ottawa Center of the RASC. He has been interviewed on more than 50 Canadian radio stations as well as television across Canada and the US. In recognition of his public outreach in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union has honored him with the naming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter: @astroeducator, Facebook and his website: www.wondersofastronomy.com
Support local journalism by clicking here to make a one-time contribution or by subscribing for a small monthly fee. We appreciate your consideration and any contribution you can provide.