(Reuters) – Following a presidential preview of a galaxy-strewn image from the depths of the cosmos, NASA officials gathered on Tuesday to reveal more of their first projection from the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful orbital observatory ever launched. .
The first batch of high-resolution color photographs, which took weeks to render from the telescope’s raw data, were selected by NASA to provide compelling initial images of Webb’s key areas of investigation and insight into future missions. scientists.
The $9 billion infrared telescope, built for NASA by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman Corp, is set to revolutionize astronomy by allowing scientists to look farther than ever before and with greater clarity into the Cosmos, dawn of the known universe. .
The result of a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, Webb was launched on Christmas Day 2021 and reached its destination in solar orbit, nearly one million kilometers from Earth. , a month later.
Once there, the telescope went through a months-long process of unfolding all of its components, including a tennis-court-sized sunshade, aligning its mirrors and calibrating its instruments.
With Webb now honed and fully focused, astronomers will embark on a carefully curated list of science projects that explore the evolution of galaxies, the life cycles of stars, the atmospheres of distant exoplanets, and the moons of our outer solar system.
The variety of photos was a closely guarded secret until Friday, when the space agency released a list of five chosen celestial objects for its big reveal Tuesday at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Cheers and cheers from an enthusiastic “cheer team”, James Webb welcomed some 300 scientists, telescope engineers, politicians and senior officials from NASA and its international partners to a packed and bustling auditorium before opening remarks .
“I didn’t know I was coming to a rally today,” NASA Administrator James Nelson said from the scene, enthused that “every Webb image is a discovery.”
US President Joe Biden had released a first image during his own White House briefing on Monday – an image of a galaxy cluster dubbed SMACS 0723, revealing the most detailed view of the early universe ever recorded. .
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Joey Roulette)
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