After months of anticipation, and a day after President Biden himself was involved in the release of an image of the early universe, NASA has now released four other images from the Webb Space Telescope. The agency had already told us that the target would include a few nebulae, a galaxy cluster and an exoplanet.
But it was not clear what features of these objects would be the focus of these images. Or how NASA will process the images so that features in the infrared region of the spectrum are considered to be in the visible region of the spectrum. Scientists we spoke to at the Web Launch event suggested that everyone knew about aesthetics and would experiment with different methods to perform this processing in a way that balanced scientific accuracy with the wow factor everyone expected. does.
The results are finally being provided, and they certainly did manage to wow. We will add details about the scientific material after discussion in the press conference, which is currently ongoing. But we wanted to get you the images as they become available, so this story will be updated frequently as the morning progresses.
The first image they are unveiling is a deep look at the early universe provided by the gravitational lens. Today, they are telling us that they have a spectrum that identifies elements present in a galaxy that is more than 13 billion years old – the oldest galaxy for which we have this information. It took less than a day to get the exposure needed for this data.
Next is the spectrum of an exoplanet, WASP-96b. Infrared absorbs a lot of key molecules, like water and carbon dioxide, which means Webb can register the fingerprints of things that could indicate our ability to live. WASP-96b is a hot gas giant, so nowhere near habitable, but provided a good first target for getting solid data quickly. The new spectrum picks up lots of hints of water, but at a lower intensity than expected, which suggests clouds and haze are present in the atmosphere.