The first photograph from the James Webb Space Telescope is finally here and it’s breathtaking. NASA engineers have spent long weeks aligning the iconic golden mirrors of the $10 billion investment, and with the telescope having been in development for more than two decades, the excitement for the photograph has long been expected.
The Hubble Telescope has lived up to its legendary reputation. However, many of the questions that scientists want to answer are beyond its reach. The home of the new Webb telescope is in a much more distant orbit than Hubble, about 1.5 million miles from Earth, and beyond the Moon. While the view is much clearer in the new location, the new telescope is also 100 times more powerful than Hubble.
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It takes more than a few seconds to soak up the amazing first photograph from the James Webb Telescope. Taking center stage is a massive, powerful, large, red-orange and yellow ultra-bright star that shines perfectly. Immaculate diffraction spikes of the star, extending diagonally, horizontally, and vertically. In the dark deep space black background, hundreds of distant, yet focused red stars, galaxies, and cosmic structures emerge from the unexplored abyss.
An Unexplored Universe Emerging From The Dark
This first photograph is more than just a wonderful and inspiring vision. It is also a display of the new powers humanity has in space and speaks of the state-of-the-art technology which drives the telescope. The hundreds of distant galaxies and stars in the background are surprisingly focused. This is likely an effect of the Webb telescope utilizing what’s known as Deep Field. A breakthrough for the Hubble Telescope, Deep Field allows images to be taken after a longer period of time to help expose even faint subjects, providing a glimpse at the incredible abundance and variety that exists within the Universe.
The image also proves that NASA has successfully completed one of the most complex stages. The eighteen golden mirrors, the secondary mirror, and the inner camera, all had to be aligned with extreme precision. On this point, NASA said that the “fine phasing” results exceeded all expectations. The telescope shows no critical issues nor contamination or blockages to its optical path.
The first photo was taken with the Near-Infrared Camera. Now engineers will align the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, Mid-Infrared Instrument, Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph using a self-correcting algorithm. This process will take about six weeks, followed by the preparation of scientific instruments. Webb is just getting started and it can be expected that the photographs are just going to get better and better. Buckle up for a journey into deep space, as humankind will get to witness what no human eye has ever seen before.