We expected them to elaborate. Astronomer tells iRADIO about images from Web telescope

We expected them to elaborate.  Astronomer tells iRADIO about images from Web telescope

Scientists released the first batch of full images and data from the James Webb Space Telescope on Tuesday. Its instruments see light passing through nebulae and other obstacles in space. So the images are much cleaner and more detailed than previous telescopes. Jan Spreck from the Observatory and Planetarium in the capital city of Prague drew attention to the Czech Radio Plus Gravitational Lens, which can be seen in the first of the published images.



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NASA image shows the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light (left) and mid-infrared light (right) | Photo: NASA | Source: NASA

Were you surprised by the new images, or did you know what they would contain?
I would agree that almost everyone who deals with it has a little understanding of it. However, we were definitely blown away as the level of detail seen in the images was absolutely incredible. We were really hoping to get that level of detail, but when you see it with your own eyes, it’s amazing.


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If you look at the picture published on Monday or the other three published on Tuesday, it is a real show.

What impressed you most about the pictures? What do you point out to the general public? What should they pay attention to?
I would like to stop the picture published by US President Biden with his team at midnight on Tuesday.

This was a view back to the beginning of the formation of the universe, because we were looking far back in history. We are actually looking at galaxies forming only about 400 million years old. It is really yesterday in relation to the age of the universe. That means, we look as far as possible.

Many forms or phenomena are beautiful to behold. When you see the image in front of you, it actually targets the object SMEX 0723, which is actually a cluster of galaxies. It acts as a gravitational lens.

First photo of deep space taken by the Webb Telescope | Photo: Web Telescope | Source: NASA

That is, when you look at it, since it is the center of the image, you see imaginary rings from other galaxies around it. What’s interesting about this is that the galaxies aren’t actually around it, but hidden behind it.

A cluster of galaxies acts as a giant gravitational lens, amplifying the brightness of the galaxies behind it, allowing us to see more than previously possible. So I definitely point it out because it’s an absolute beauty.

Is that what telescopes say they see through nebulae, dust, and gas?
That’s not exactly the case, because it’s a principle we already know from the Hubble Space Telescope. But the level of detail achieved here is truly amazing.


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We must remember that the Hubble Space Telescope looked at the same area and looked there for two weeks. He scanned and collected the light emitted by distant galaxies. The James Webb telescope looked at the space for only 12.5 hours. It is already completely incomparable. It really is a beauty.

What you mentioned about passing through gases and dust, James Webb’s telescope is using there the fact that it scans the universe primarily in what is called the infrared spectrum. This means that there are longer wavelengths and the rays pass through gas and dust. You can also observe something hidden behind those nebulas.

So we were able to look at the star-forming regions in the center of the nebulae. Stars form in nebulae, where all the gas a star needs for its formation collapses. If you can look inside the nebula, you can see a star in the making.

The first series of images from the Web Telescope, in addition to these images that you described so colorfully, also have scientific data. What do they show?
Of course there is a lot of scientific data. What the James Webb Telescope can do beautifully is measure the spectra of given stars and exoplanets. These are planets that orbit other stars.


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Scientists from America, Europe and Canada have published not only photos, but also information and data about the WASP exoplanet that the telescope was looking at.

It is actually a giant planet, slightly smaller than Jupiter, orbiting very close to its parent star. With the help of the spectroscope in the telescope, we looked at the planet’s atmosphere.

Imagine looking at yourself a quadrillion kilometers away. You look there and you can tell what its atmosphere is, which is cloudy. We are actually looking at the climate of the planet. With the help of these measurements we find that there is water and steam and that there are clouds.

So this is probably a breakthrough discovery, right?
Of course, it was expected in a way, but it is one thing to expect something, and another to confirm the assumption. As soon as this is confirmed, you know that you can proceed with the help of these tools.

Suddenly, we can start looking at other exoplanets orbiting other stars. Not to planets like Jupiter, but to planets similar to our Earth, called terrestrials.

One day we may be able to say that any planet outside the solar system has conditions suitable for life. Fellow astronomers told me that would happen by 2032.

Renata Kropácková, mst

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