The James Webb Space Telescope – known in English by the acronym JWST – was launched into orbit just two years ago, but it has already begun to redefine our view of the world. Primordial universe.
Cassiopeia A | Expanding debris layers of Cas A, an exploding star (or supernova). The main ring is about 15 light-years across.
It's incredible to think that imaging isn't actually the biggest workload for this telescope.
He spends more than 70% of his time on that Spectroscopic analysis. This means sampling light from objects and cutting it into “rainbow” colors.
This is how scientists are able to recover important information about ChemicalsThe temperature, density and speed of the targets under study.
“You can think of the[James]Webb Telescope as a giant spectrometer that sometimes takes beautiful pictures,” jokes Eric Smith, a James Webb Research Program scientist at NASA.
Jupiter | The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, can be seen in infrared. In the image, the brightest parts of it appear at the highest altitudes – the tops of convective storm clouds.
Without fully using his powers, James Webb delved into the universe to show us galaxies as they were 13.5 billion years ago.
Many of these cosmic structures are brighter, more massive and more mature than many scientists thought possible so soon after the Big Bang, which occurred 13.8 billion years ago.
Professor Gillian Wright, director of the UK's Center for Astronomy Technology, told BBC News: “We certainly thought we would see bubbles of stars spreading out. But we observed fully formed galaxies, with perfect spiral arms.”
“Theorists are working to understand how these mature structures emerged so early in the universe,” she adds. “In this sense, Webb is truly changing scientific thinking.”
M51 | The M51 Whirlwind Galaxy can be seen in the night sky using simpler instruments. Here, the most powerful space telescope ever launched uses its amazing capabilities to study its complex spiral arms.
Chameleon I | The Chameleon I molecular cloud is located about 630 light-years from Earth. Here, at temperatures of around -260°C, Webb discovered types of ice particles that had never been observed before.
arc c| The Webb Telescope looks at the center of our galaxy, near where a supermassive black hole resides. There are about 500,000 stars in this image, and they are about 50 light-years in diameter. The bluish color on the left highlights hydrogen gas activity in the area.
It was not only the efficiency of the first galaxies in forming their stars that surprised scientists. The size of black holes in the centers of galaxies also surprises experts.
There is a “monster” at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy that has a mass of four billion times the mass of the Sun, and one theory suggests that these giants are created over time by the accretion of many smaller black holes that are produced in the form of the remains of exploded stars (supernovae). .
“But the preliminary evidence coming from the James Webb Space Telescope is that some of these events are early [buracos negros] “The giants may have completely bypassed this stellar stage,” suggests researcher Adam Carnall of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
“There is a scenario in which massive gas clouds in the early universe could have collapsed violently and turned into black holes.”
NGC 3256 | This is what happens when two galaxies collide with each other. The event in the image is estimated to have occurred about 500 million years ago. The collision leads to the formation of new stars, which illuminate the surrounding gas and dust.
The Crab Nebula | The famous supernova remnant was first described by Chinese astronomers in 1054. It is located about 6,500 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Taurus.
When the James Webb Telescope was launched at Christmas 2021, it was thought to have 10 years of operations ahead of it. This is because the device needs fuel to remain active 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
But its journey into orbit on an Ariane rocket, launched by European researchers, was so precise that it has enough fuel reserves for the next 20 years – if not longer.
This means that instead of speeding up observations, astronomers can take a more strategic approach to working with the telescope.
“We thought we would waste revenue.” [se as observações fossem aceleradas]“We don't need to do that anymore,” says NASA's Smith.
One activity that will certainly accelerate from now on is the practice of making “deep fields” – long observations of specific regions of the sky that will allow the telescope to track light from fainter, more distant galaxies.
This is how the telescope will likely discover the first galaxies and perhaps even some of the first stars to shine in the universe.
Saturn | The famous ringed planet appears quite dark to Webb in this image because methane, which is abundant here, strongly absorbs infrared light. Three of Saturn's moons can be seen on the left of the image.
HH212 | A young star about 50,000 years old fires jets of energy from both poles, causing hydrogen molecules to light up pink. The entire structure is 1.6 light-years in diameter.
The famous Hubble Telescope spent several days looking at one corner of the universe.
“I don't think we'll need the hundreds of hours of exposure that Hubble requires, but I do think we'll need multiple deep fields,” predicts researcher Emma Curtis-Lake, of the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.
“We've been exposed to JWST for a very long time and have seen a lot of variations. So we can't put everything in one small area because there's no guarantee that we'll find anything very interesting there,” she explains.
Gads | The JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey project, also known as JADES, discovered the galaxy JADES-GS-z13-0, which was observed just 325 million years after the Big Bang.
A group of stars EC 348 | Thin filaments of gas and dust flow between a group of bright stars. In this image, the telescope has found a brown dwarf star, or A “A failed star.” The structure's mass is about three to four times the mass of Jupiter.
Astronomer Massimo Stiavelli of the Space Telescope Science Institute dreams of finding a primordial star — that is, a star that bears the signature of the original chemistry that emerged from the Big Bang and has not been contaminated by elements formed later in cosmic history.
“We will need to see them as supernovas when they explode,” explains Webb, head of the mission office.
“To achieve this, we need to start looking at the same sites year after year, to detect them before and shortly after they explode. They are extremely rare and we will need to be very lucky.”
Eärendel | The farthest single star observed so far is called Earendel. James Webb confirmed that its light took 12.9 billion years to reach us. This light was driven by the gravity of foreground galaxies.
Orion Nebula | The famous star formation region can be seen with the naked eye as a point in the sky. A spacecraft traveling at the speed of light (about 300,000 kilometers per second) would take just over four years to cross this scene captured by Webb.
Ru Oviuchi | This cloud complex is the closest star-forming region to Earth, located only 400 light-years away. The star illuminating the main white cavity is only a few million years old.
Script written by Jonathan Amos with editing by Rebecca Morrell, Alison Francis and Tony Joliffe. Produced by Mike Hills Dominic Bailey, designed by Kate Gaynor and developed by Becky Rush. Images: NASA/ESA/CSA.
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