Une première photo bluffante pour le téléscope James Webb

Une première photo bluffante pour le téléscope James Webb

NASA has unveiled an image of the Large Magellanic Cloud captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. An image that relegates the previous ones to the rank of pixel mush.

While official missions have yet to begin, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is already showing off its prowess. On May 9, during a media conference on progress in preparing the James Webb Space Telescope for science operations, NASA showed the first images captured by the spacecraft during the phase mirror alignment. And one thing is certain: the Large Magellanic Cloud, visible in the MIRI test image (at 7.7 microns), has never looked so majestic.

Fruit of a collaboration between Europe and the United States, the instrument called MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) consists of a camera equipped with four coronagraphs and a spectrometer, and operates between 5 and 27 microns of wave length. In concrete terms, the tool’s sensors allow it to “see red-shifted light from distant galaxies, newly formed stars, and faintly visible comets as well as Kuiper Belt objects”says NASA.

© NASA/JPL/ESA/CSA/STScI

“For example, Webb’s MIRI image shows interstellar gas in unprecedented detail.says NASA. Here you can see the emission of ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’, or carbon and hydrogen molecules that play an important role in the thermal balance and chemistry of interstellar gas. When Webb is ready to begin scientific observations, studies like these with MIRI will help give astronomers new insights into the birth of stars and protoplanetary systems.”.

To support their demonstration, the teams working for James Webb compared an image obtained by MIRI with another from the Spitzer telescope, now retired, which was one of NASA’s great observatories and the first to provide high-resolution images. resolution of the universe in the near and middle infrared. Yet impressive in 2003, the image made by Spitzer is now reduced to a mush of pixels.

Meanwhile, the telescope team has started the process of setting up and testing the instruments to begin scientific observations this summer. Because yes, the images of the Large Magellanic Cloud were obtained with tools that were not yet fully calibrated. If all goes well, James Webb has not finished making us travel.

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