This week will see the exciting release of the first science images from the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope, a combined project from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), was launched in December last year and since then has arrived at its orbit around the sun, deployed its hardware, and aligned its mirrors and instruments. Now, NASA is gearing up for the release of the first images from the telescope, set for July 12, and has announced which objects the images will show.
The first object is the Carina Nebula, a large cloud of dust and gas where an enormous star exploded in 1843. The nebula is famed for its beauty as well as for hosting star WR 25, the brightest star in our galaxy. It is large by nebulae standards and is located 7,600 light-years away in the constellation Carina, visible in the southern hemisphere.
The second object is a giant exoplanet called WASP-96b. Located 1,150 light-years away, it is around half the mass of Jupiter and it orbits very close to its star, with a year there lasting just 3.4 days. The data on this planet will include a spectrum, which can be used to tell what an object is composed of. It will likely include data about the exoplanet’s atmosphere, which is one of Webb’s new capabilities.
The third object is another nebula, the Southern Ring Nebula, which is bright and a distinctive round shape, made up of gas around a star coming to the end of its life.
The fourth and fifth objects are on a larger scale, including a galaxy group called Stephan’s Quintet located 290 million light-years away which has four of its five galaxies in very close proximity, and a deep field image called SMACS 0723 in which gravitational lensing gives a deep view of extremely distant and faint galaxies.
These images are just a taster of the work that James Webb will do in its first year, and show the variety of types of objects that it can study. The images are scheduled to be released on Tuesday, July 12, beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET (7:30 a.m. PT), and you can watch the release via a live broadcast on NASA TV.
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