The images unveiled from 10:30 a.m. will be those of the Carina Nebulae and the Southern Ring, as well as that of the Stephan Quintet, a group of galaxies. The very first spectroscopy of the telescope, that of the exoplanet WASP-96 b, will also be made public.
This technique makes it possible to determine the spectrum of a celestial object which contains information on the chemical and molecular elements of its atmosphere. It could also make it possible to understand how the planet was formed, but also to know if it shelters elements revealing the presence of life.
A first image, the deepest taken of the Universe to date, was presented on Monday by US President Joe Biden. It shows in unparalleled detail galaxies formed a few hundred million years after the big bang, more than 13 billion years ago.
This first deep Webb field was obtained using the gravitational lensing technique which, like a giant cosmic magnifying glass, makes it possible to see behind the galactic cluster SMACS 0723 and to magnify the galaxies therein.
The cluster appears as it was 4.6 billion years ago, but the lens allows thousands of much older galaxies to be seen behind it, including fainter celestial objects that had no never been observed.
In the coming years, astrophysicists will analyze this image in order to better understand their mass, their age and their composition.
The size of this image is roughly equivalent to that of the observation of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.
The scientific mission begins
The James Webb Telescope was launched on December 25 from French Guiana. It is able to look further into the Universe than all other telescopes thanks to its huge main mirror and its four instruments that perceive infrared signals, which allow it to pierce through clouds of dust.
It reached its workplace 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in January and its scientific structures and instruments are now deployed, calibrated and tested.
The publication of these results marks the transition between the commissioning phase of the telescope and the start of its scientific mission. During the first five months of the mission, James Webb’s instruments will be used exclusively by the teams associated with the thirteen initial observing programs which were selected following a competition based on their scientific interest in astronomy research. .
Several Canadian and Quebec scientists participate in these programs.
Canada is providing two of the four Webb mission-critical instruments: NIRISS (for near-infrared slitless imager and spectrograph) and FGS (precision guidance sensor).
NIRISS collected some of the data that was shared at the press conference, along with the US NIRCam, the mission’s primary imager.
NIRISS has specialized imaging capabilities for studying the atmospheres of exoplanets and very distant galaxiesnotes Nathalie Ouellette, scientist in charge of communications for James Webb in Canada and coordinator of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx).
As for the FGS, its work is also at the heart of the announcements and all those that will follow, since it is the guiding detector that allows the telescope to point an object and carry out observations with stability and precision.
” The fact that it is a Canadian instrument is a source of great pride for us. »