Before the first full-color images and spectroscopic data of the James Webb Space Telescope are released by NASA, we may finally get a clue of what the first few operational images will look like. According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the first pictures from the $10 billion deep space observatory will include “the deepest image ever taken of our universe.”
SPACE.com reports that NASA did not specify which early-universe objects Webb would focus on, with the space agency’s administrator suggesting that the image would show some of the earliest objects seen yet. This should mean that we will see objects older than those seen in the Hubble Space Telescope’s series of deep image regions that show galaxies formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
Nelson was speaking at a news conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. During the event, NASA discussed Webb’s upcoming operational image release on July 12, as well as various science experiments that will be conducted using the observatory in early life.
The first set of images will also include the first spectrum of Webb’s exoplanets, according to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, who spoke of during the same event. Measuring the amount of light emitted at certain wavelengths with such spectra would provide clues to the planet’s chemistry and its formation history.
NASA has shared an image comparing a similar cluster of stars captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Array and Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument). The test image shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way with a dense star region.
Even though Spitzer, which was decommissioned from service on January 30, 2020, was responsible for many important scientific observations, it has now been taken out of Webb’s improved imaging system. Webb’s significantly larger primary mirror and better detectors allow it to capture higher resolution images with better clarity than Spitzer.