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James Webb Space Telescope captures sharp views of invisible light – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) — The James Webb Space Telescope has the sharpest perspective of otherwise invisible light in the universe.

The much-anticipated first scientific images from the world’s leading space observatory are not expected until this summer. However, the latest test images captured by the telescope during its final phase of commissioning offer a glimpse of what is to come.

“These are the sharpest infrared images ever taken by a space telescope,” said Michael McElwain, project scientist for the Webb Observatory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, during a news conference Monday.

Webb can look inside atmospheres of exoplanets and Observe some of the first galaxies created after the universe began by being observed through infrared light invisible to the human eye. The images were taken after successfully aligning the telescope’s massive golden mirror segments. The test images show the clear, well-focused images that the observatory’s four instruments are capable of capturing.

The most striking result, however, came from a comparison of images taken by Webb’s mid-infrared instrument with the now-defunct Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared array camera of the same target.

Spitzer, once one of NASA’s Great Observatories program space telescopes, was that capture the first high-resolution images of the universe in near and mid-infrared light.

Webb’s giant mirror and sensitive detectors can capture even more detail — and enable more discoveries — than Spitzer could.

scientist Examining the two images of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighboring galaxy of the larger Milky Way, Webb’s image reveals unprecedented details of the interstellar gas between the stars.

“You can tell that Webb’s images will be better because we have 18 segments, each of which is sort of larger than the single segment that made up the Spitzer telescope’s mirror,” said Marcia Rieke, principal investigator for Webb’s near-infrared camera and Regents Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, during the press conference.

“But it’s only when you see the kind of image that it provides that you really take it in and say, ‘Wow, just think about what we’re going to learn.’ Spitzer taught us a lot. It’s like a whole new world.”

Just before the starting line

Webb is now in the final stages of preparation before it will be ready to begin conducting scientific observations.

“I would call that the home stretch,” McElwain said. “We have about 1,000 activities planned for commissioning, and only about 200 activities remain to be completed.”

Webb’s instruments are undergoing their final checks and calibrations while the telescope’s on-site team evaluates each instrument’s performance to ensure it is ready for proper data collection.

Each instrument has about four or five science modes, each of which must meet specific criteria. One of Webb’s specialty modes involves tracking moving targets, which is particularly useful for scientists wanting to study objects in the frigid reaches of our solar system as they orbit the sun.

“When this phase is complete, we will be ready to unleash the scientific instruments on the universe,” McElwain said.

The first pictures

Webb’s first images of the Universe, called Early Release Observations, or EROs, are expected to appear in mid-July, Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said during the press conference. A more precise date will be communicated later, he said.

These first “spectacular color images” will show Webb is fully operational and a celebratory “beginning of many years of science,” Pontoppidan said.

Webb’s exact targets for these first images were not disclosed because the telescope team didn’t want to spoil the surprise. And those goals could change as the team gets closer to capturing images.

The first images will resemble what we are used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope in terms of aesthetic quality, Pontoppidan said.

“Astronomy won’t be the same once we see what (Webb) can do with these first observations,” said Christopher Evans, Webb project scientist at the European Space Agency, during the press conference.

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Nate Jones

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