JUN 10, 2022 7:00 AM PDT

The First Images from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope are Coming Soon!

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will release its first full-color images and spectroscopic data on July 12, 2022! The Webb – a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – is the largest and most complex observatory launched into space. Between planning and development of new and innovative technology, these new images will be the culmination of decades of work.

Caption: The Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes will be complementary observatories. Webb will build upon Hubble’s amazing legacy and our current knowledge, by opening up a new window to the Universe. The two spacecraft differ in many ways, including their size, shape, orbital distance from the Earth, but most importantly, the wavelength coverage of light. As seen in the image above, Hubble observes the Universe in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths, while Webb will focus on infrared wavelengths of light. Credit: NASA, J. Olmsted (STScI)

 

During the past six months, a team of scientists has been preparing the Webb to do science work through a period of instrument calibration and mirror alignment. Now, we find ourselves on the precipice of an incredibly exciting period of discovery where Webb is almost ready to begin its science mission to unfold the mysteries of the infrared universe!

 

What should you expect to see when these images are finally released? Certainly, a unique view of the Universe that humanity has never seen before, but we just won’t know until we see it. According to Joseph DePasquale, lead science visuals developer at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland (home to Webb’s science and mission operations), there are things the team is expecting and hoping to see, but it is impossible to say what we will see since Webb is a new telescope and we have never seen infrared data at such high resolution before.
 


The first images and spectra will highlight the science themes that inspired the mission: the early universe, the evolution of galaxies through time, the lifecycle of stars, and other worlds. Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at STScI, says that his team wanted the first images and data to showcase the telescope’s powerful instruments and to preview the science mission to come. Over the course of 5 years, a list of targets was preselected and prioritized by an international committee to highlight the powerful capabilities of the telescope.

 

After capturing the first images, scientific operations will begin, which will continue to explore the mission’s key science themes. Obtaining time on this telescope is an extremely competitive process and astronomers have already applied to use the telescope in its first year of operations. The observations are then carefully scheduled to make the most efficient use of the telescope’s time. Eventually, all data taken by this telescope – like all other NASA telescopes – will be made publicly available.

 

Although the telescope was designed with specific goals in mind, the exciting thing about the Universe is that most of it remains a mystery. Telescopes always make unexpected discoveries that astronomers just can’t anticipate. So, what do you think NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will discover?
 

Sources: NASA.gov, The European Space Agency

About the Author
PhD in Astrophysics
I'm a stellar astrophysicist by training with a passion for formal and informal education and diversity and inclusion in STEM. I love to take a humanistic approach to my work and firmly believe that all of humanity is united under one sky.
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