James Webb telescope reveals image of distant galaxies

James Webb telescope reveals image of distant galaxies

Hubble’s successor has ascended the throne: on Tuesday night, the first scientific picture of the one launched on Christmas Day 2021 was taken James Webb Space Telescope released. It shows the twelve and a half hour exposure of a tiny section of the firmament in the constellation of the Flying Fish (Volans) in the southern sky. Only a few stars can be seen, identified by the eight rays created by diffraction effects at the edges of the telescope’s hexagonal mirror segments. The other, lenticular to spot-shaped structures are galaxies. The reddish ones in particular are far away – sometimes very far.

Ulf von Rauchhaupt

Editor in the “Science” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

Because even the white galaxies in the center are so far away that their light has traveled to us for as long as has passed since the formation of the earth: 4.6 billion years. They belong to a cluster of galaxies called SMAC 0723. Its mostly dark matter mass distorts the galaxy field in the background due to its gravity. It was recorded by the NIRCam infrared camera, one of the five instruments behind the 6.5-meter reflecting telescope that is floating in space 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. NIRCam is an American instrument on board a joint project of the NASA, the European ESA and the Canadian Space Agency CSA. The optics, however, were mainly developed and built in the USA.

The President introduces the first picture

The President of the United States Joe Biden presented the first color picture of the James Webb telescope on Monday evening around 6:30 p.m. local time in Washington together with Vice President Kamala Harris and the NASA chief – an hour later than announced. “I still had to prepare a trip to the Middle East,” Biden apologized. The complex unfolding and commissioning of the telescope had previously dragged on for months. “What an unbelievable honor,” said Josef Aschenbacher, head of the European Space Agency ESA, in his company’s press release on Tuesday night.

In fact, it is extremely rare for the President of the United States to announce scientific news in the White House. Only the elderly will remember Bill Clinton’s speech in 1996, when NASA scientists believed they had found traces of fossilized extraterrestrial bacteria on a meteorite from Mars. This finding has now turned out to be wrong.

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