Washington, Jul 11 (EFE).- The first image captured by Nasa’s James Webb space telescope was unveiled by United States President Joe Biden during an event at the White House on Monday.
“Webb’s First Deep Field is not only the first full-color image from the James Webb Space Telescope, it’s the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe, so far,” Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson said.
“This image covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. It’s just a tiny sliver of the vast universe,” he added.
The photo shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, whose combined mass acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying much more distant galaxies behind it, according to Nasa.
This deep field is a composite made from images at various wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours and achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope’s deepest fields, which took weeks.
“Scientists are thrilled that Webb is alive and as powerful as we hoped, far beyond Hubble, and that it survived all hazards to be our golden eye in the sky,” Webb senior project scientist John Mather said.
“These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things. And they’ll remind the American people, especially our children, that there’s nothing beyond our capacity,” Biden said during the event.
The James Webb space telescope is jointly operated by Nasa, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency and is the most powerful telescope to be launched into space.
Monday’s event serves as a preview of a succession of revelations that will kick off Tuesday as the space agencies release, one by one, the first images and data from the telescope for scientific use.
Until now, the telescope had only looked at star clusters studied many times – such as the Large Magellanic Cloud – to test the calibration of its instruments.
“We’re looking back more than 13 billion years. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. And that light that you are seeing on one of those little specks has been traveling for over 13 billion years,” said Nelson, explaining that the Webb telescope will allow scientists to study the light from the first stars to form in the universe.
“There’s another thing that you’re going to find with this telescope: It is going to be so precise, you’re going to see whether or not planets, because of the chemical composition that we can determine with this telescope of their atmosphere, if those planets are habitable,” he added.
Since the telescope’s massive hexagon-shaped mirror unfolded earlier this year, all its state-of-the-art systems, cameras, spectrographs and coronagraphs have performed beyond scientists’ expectations.
In May, the telescope was hit by space debris called micrometeorite.
However, Nasa experts say it continues to perform “at a level that exceeds all mission requirements despite a marginally detectable effect in the data.” EFE