One of those observations was a detailed study of the atmosphere of a gas giant planet 1,000 light-years from Earth, called WASP-96 b. By looking at the dip in light as the planet passed in front of its parent star, JWST was able to probe this world’s atmosphere, a technique it will use to study many more planets in the future.
“You see bumps and squiggles that indicate the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere,” said Knicole Colón, an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the James Webb Space Telescope deputy project scientist for exoplanet science, in a NASA event that revealed the observations. .
“These are probably the most difficult observations JWST will make,” said Don Pollacco, an astronomer at Warwick University in the UK. JWST is expected to have an unparalleled ability to search for methane and other potential characteristics of life in the atmospheres of planets similar in size to our own.
Instruments aboard JWST captured these two images of the Southern Ring Nebula, located about 2,500 light-years away.
NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCIA
Also unveiled today is the JWST image of a dying star shedding its outer layers, a so-called planetary nebula known as the Southern Ring Nebula, located about 2,500 light-years from Earth. The rendering is much more detailed than an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1998 and reveals for the first time the two stars known to be at the heart of the nebula.
Another image (pictured at the top of this story) shows a beautiful view of Stephan’s Quintet, a group of five galaxies located about 300 million light-years from Earth. Four of these galaxies interact with each other, transferring gas and dust between them. JWST’s view of the galaxies in infrared light shows like never before how those interactions drive star formation in the galaxies. The power of JWST’s optics is so great that individual stars can be seen even in the galaxies. “It’s remarkable,” said Mark McCaughrean, senior advisor for science and exploration at the European Space Agency. “We’re ready to put this telescope on 11.”
The edge of a star-forming region in the Carina Nebula, as captured by JWST.
NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCIA
The last image presented was a fresh look at the Carina Nebula, a region of active star formation nearly 8,000 light-years from Earth. The stunning vista revealed by JWST reveals hundreds of new stars never seen before, and even structures in the nebula’s dust and gas that cannot yet be explained, according to Amber Straughn, an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard and deputy project scientist for the JWST. .
Thanks to JWST, “we can see so much more detail,” Straugn says. “It really shows what’s going on here.”
This JWST “deep field” image, full of galaxies, was unveiled Monday by President Biden.
NASA, ESA, CSA AND STSCIA
These images are just a tantalizing bite of what’s to come from JWST. The telescope has now entered its first year of planned scientific observations. Countless more stunning vistas and vast amounts of priceless data await us.
“It’s a new window into the history of our universe,” President Biden said yesterday. “We get a glimpse of the first light shining through that window.”