Launched in 2021 on Christmas Day, the James Webb Space Telescope is the most complex, precise and powerful space observatory ever built.
The telescope’s unrivalled resolution and sophistication are due in no small part to the many cutting-edge devices it contains, including a guidance camera and a scientific instrument developed by researchers at Université de Montréal’s Institut de recherche sur les exoplanètes (iREx).
Now these same scientists, under the direction of René Doyon, a professor in UdeM’s Department of Physics, can see the fruit of their efforts and expertise, as initial data captured by the telescope has been made public.
The first photo taken by James Webb was released by U.S. President Joe Biden on July 11, 2022, and is of unprecedented color and clarity. It is the deepest, sharpest infrared image yet taken of the distant universe: A cluster of galaxies formed over 13 billion years ago.
Four more images were then unveiled live on July 12 from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The images showed the Carina and Southern Ring nebulae in unparalleled sharpness, in addition to Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies.
James Webb’s first-ever spectroscopy of the exoplanet WASP-96 b, located 1,000 light-years from Earth, was also made public. Using this technique to determine the chemical composition of a distant object, the telescope captured the distinct signature of water, as well as evidence of clouds and haze.
Nathalie Ouellette, an astrophysicist, iREx coordinator and communications scientist for the James Webb Telescope, tells us more about these remarkable images…
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