NASA has hyped the
The U.S. space agency revealed a new image Thursday that came from one of the enormous infrared telescope’s instruments, the Fine Guidance Sensor. NASA nonchalantly shared the picture over social media to demonstrate the strength and clarity of Webb: an almost unfathomably deep view of the universe in red monochrome.
The surprise teaser came just six days before the agency and its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, plan to
For some people, the new snapshot (at the top of this story) might not look like anything too impressive — at best, maybe sesame seeds on a hamburger bun or gnats smooshed on a car windshield. But what they’re looking at is the abyss: Behind just a handful of bright stars with giant spikes of light are galaxies brimming with solar systems.
That’s right: Each of those little flecks might contain hundreds of billions of stars and planets. Within this single frame are thousands of faint galaxies, according to the telescope team, many in the distant, early universe. In astronomy, looking farther translates into observing the past because light and other forms of radiation take longer to reach us.
Do you feel small yet?
As Jane Rigby, a project scientist at NASA, once said
That’s true in this instance. The main job of the Fine Guidance Sensor,
The image is the result of 72 exposures over 32 hours, layered on top of each other. The ragged edges of the photo are due to the overlapping frames, according to the post.
“There’s no way that Webb can look … at any point in the sky and not go incredibly deep.”
Webb, launched into space
NASA officials emphasized Thursday that the test shot is still “rough around the edges,” and won’t hold a candle to the quality of
Engineers toned the data in
The stars also appear to have holes punched in their centers, a feature that will not be present in the upcoming photos, according to the Webb team. Engineers said the holes are there because
“Dithering is when the telescope repositions slightly between each exposure,” according to NASA. “The centers of bright stars appear black because they saturate Webb’s detectors, and the pointing of the telescope didn’t change over the exposures to capture the center from different pixels within the camera’s detectors.”
The upcoming images and scientific data will be released during a broadcasted event starting at 10:30 a.m. ET on July 12 from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The public can