Science & Technology

From the birth to the death of stars, Webb reveals its first images

Madrid, Jul 12 (EFE).- A series of spectacular full-color images of the universe captured by the James Webb Space Telescope were unveiled on Tuesday.

The South Ring Nebula, the Stephan Quintet of galaxies, the Carina Nebula and the spectrum of the exoplanet WASP-96b were the stars of this first release of photographs taken by the largest telescope ever launched into space.

In a live broadcast captained by the US space agency Nasa and with the participation of the European Space Agency (Esa) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), these four new cosmic objects were unveiled a day after the first was displayed at an event attended by US president Joe Biden: the SMACS 0732 galaxy cluster, as it was 4.6 billion years ago.

The first photo, of the South Ring planetary nebula, shows a fainter, dying star in the center of the scene that has been emitting rings of gas and dust in all directions for thousands of years.

The nebula is about 2,500 light-years away and Webb will allow us to delve into many other specific details about planetary nebulae like this one: understanding what molecules are present and where they are found along the layers of gas and dust will help researchers refine their knowledge of these objects.

Webb has also provided an incredible new view of Stephan’s Quintet, a cluster of five galaxies – four of which interact with each other – located 290 million light-years away.

The image and its data provide new insights into how interactions may have driven the evolution of galaxies in the early universe and information about the evolution of black holes and galaxies.

Astronomer Giovanna Giardino explained that four of these galaxies perform “a cosmic dance” driven by their gravitational forces, and the image also shows matter surrounding a black hole.

This is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the diameter of the Moon and created from nearly a thousand individual image files.

The latest to be released was of the Carina nebula, the most exciting in its spectacular nature and revealing previously invisible regions of stellar birth for the first time.

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” dotted with bright stars is actually the edge of a nearby young star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.

Dubbed the “cosmic cliffs”, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional image looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit night.

Less spectacular, but just as important to astronomers, were the first spectrographic data for the exoplanet WASP-96 b, located 1,150 light-years from us.

Webb has picked up “the unmistakable sign of water” and evidence of clouds and haze in the atmosphere of this hot, Jupiter-like gas giant.

The heads of the three space agencies involved in Webb agreed that the new telescope will not only provide answers to many questions, but will also raise others that we have not even imagined yet, and highlighted the importance of international cooperation for this project. EFE


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