Here Is The James Webb Telescope’s First-Ever Image

NASA has released the first-ever image from the James Webb telescope, which was taken during the “fine phasing” stage of the instrument’s alignment. The image is of a bright star with tons of other stars and galaxies in the background.

NASA has just released the first-ever image taken by NASA’s James Webb Telescope (JWST), which was launched into space in December of 2021. JWST, which will cost NASA approximately $9 billion over the course of its lifetime, snapped an image of a bright star with a slew of other stars—and galaxies—behind it.

“We got together and looked at the very first-ever defraction-limited images that came out of the Webb telescope. And what we collectively saw as a group is we have the highest resolution infrared images taken from space ever,” Wavefront Sensing and Controls Scientist Scott Acton says in the video immediately below. “You think of it as a blob on a picture, but it is extremely high resolution,” Acton adds.

NASA notes in a press release that “While the purpose of this image was to focus on the bright star at the center for alignment evaluation, Webb’s optics and NIRCam (a camera that aligns the telescope’s mirrors) are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up.” Indeed, the image provides an incredible depth of field, showing spiral galaxies swirling into specks.

The space agency adds that at this stage of Webb’s mirror alignment, each of the primary mirror segments has been adjusted to produce one unified image of the same star. This image of the star, which has been dubbed 2MASS J17554042+6551277, uses a red filter to optimize visual contrast.

In a tweet thread, the JWST team noted that “Webb actually record[s] light in black and white. [It uses] filters that allow only a specific color of light through. The filtered images are then individually colored by scientists and image processors, then combined.”

Following the completion of critical mirror alignment steps, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope team expects that Webb’s optical performance will be able to “meet or exceed the science goals the observatory was built to achieve.”

“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA Goddard added in NASA’s press release. “We now know we have built the right telescope.”

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