The White House Reveals the First Image from James Webb

SMAC 0723

Before the official presentation of the first images produced by the instruments of the James Webb telescope, the White House has already published one as a preview.

NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) had planned to present five selected images with the Space Telescope Science Institute, among the most iconic of the first observations of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on 12 July. However, American President Joe Biden could not resist the temptation to organise a “preview” on 11 July.

To the Very Depths of the Distant Universe

The image presented by the White House is the deepest and clearest infrared image of the distant universe to date. This image of the SMACS 0723 cluster shows thousands of galaxies, including the dimmest objects ever observed in infrared, revealed thanks to the power of the telescope. And this is only the beginning!

To get a sense of it, the part of the sky covered by this image is equivalent to that of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by an observer on the ground.

The first distant background observed by the James Webb space telescope. We can distinguish the effects of the gravitational magnification caused by the SMACS 0723 galactic cluster.

The first distant background observed by the James Webb space telescope. We can distinguish the effects of the gravitational magnification caused by the SMACS 0723 galactic cluster.

Invisible to the Human Eye

Six and a half months after the observatory was launched by Ariane 5, it took up position 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth, deployed and adjusted its mirrors, switched on and tested its instruments and, above all, it allowed its sensors to cool down in order to be able to use them to observe in near and medium infrared.

The range of wavelength observed is not, for the most part, visible to the human eye, so the images presented were re-worked in colours with which we are more familiar.

See you tomorrow to discover at least four more magnificent images illustrating how the instruments of the James Webb telescope will revolutionise our knowledge of the Universe, like its ancestor, the Hubble space telescope, has already been doing for three decades.