September 26, 2022

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Webb Telescope brings early galaxies and Jupiter into sharp focus


The James Webb Space TelescopeGreat performance, as is examines the universeIt made astronomers scratch their heads. The very distant universe looks a little different than expected.

The telescope, launched eight months ago, orbits the sun a million miles from Earth He was taking pictures of very faint galaxies that emitted their light in the first billion years or so after the Big Bang. Observing these “early” galaxies is one of the main tasks of the telescope – to see deeper into space, and to go back further than any previous telescope.

The first scientific results have emerged in recent weeks, and what the telescope saw in the deepest space was a bit baffling. Some of these distant galaxies are strikingly massive. The general assumption was that early galaxies – which formed soon after the first stars ignited – would be relatively small and distorted. Instead, some are large, bright, and well organized.

Amazing web telescope. But the universe is more than that.

“Models don’t predict this,” said Garth Ellingworth, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, of early massive galaxies. “How in the universe do you do this at such an early time? How do you form so many stars so quickly?”

This is not a global crisis. What’s happening is a lot of fast science, done “in real time,” said astrophysicist Jehan Kartaltepe of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Data is pouring in from the new telescope, and it’s among the legions of astronomers spinning new papers, quickly publishing them online ahead of peer review.

An early contributor to the James Webb Space Telescope explains how newly released images allow us to explore the origins of the universe. (Video: Hadley Greene, Hope Davison/The Washington Post)

Webb sees things no one else has seen in such fine detail and at such great distances. Research teams across the planet are poring over publicly released data and racing to discover the most distant galaxies or make other fascinating discoveries. Science often advances at a grandiose pace, increasingly advancing knowledge, but Webb is dumping truckloads of tempting data on scientists all at once. Preliminary estimates of distances will be revised upon closer examination.

Kartaltepe said she’s certainly not worried about any tension between astrophysical theory and what Webb is seeing: “We might scratch our heads one day, but after a day, ‘Oh, it all makes sense now.'”

NASA unveils first images from the James Webb Space Telescope

What surprised Astronomer Dan Koo of the Space Telescope Science Institute is the number of cute, disc-like galaxies.

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“We thought the early universe was this chaotic place where there are all these clusters of star formation, and all things mixed up,” Koo said.

This assumption about the early universe was due in part to Hubble Space Telescope observations, which revealed early lumpy, irregularly shaped galaxies. But Hubble monitors a relatively narrow portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, including “visible” light. Webb monitors infrared radiation, collecting light outside the Hubble range. With Hubble, Koe said, “We were missing all the cooler stars and older stars. We were really only seeing the interesting little ones.”

The easiest explanation for those surprisingly massive galaxies is that, at least for some of them, there was an miscalculation — possibly due to a hoax of light.

Distant galaxies are very red. They are, in astrological language, “redshift.” The wavelengths of light from these objects may be stretched due to the expansion of the universe. It is assumed that those that appear to be reddened—and have the highest redshift—are the furthest.

But dust can cast accounts. Dust can absorb blue light and redden the body. Some of these very distant, red-covered galaxies can be very dusty, and actually not as distant (and young) as they appear. This would realign the observations with what the astronomers expected.

Or another explanation may emerge. What is certain is that, for now, the $10 billion telescope — a joint effort between NASA and space agencies in Canada and Europe — is Submit new notes Not only for those distant galaxies but also things closer to home like Jupiterwhich is a giant asteroid and a newly discovered comet.

The Latest web discovery Announced Thursday: Carbon dioxide has been detected in the atmosphere of a distant giant planet called WASP-39 b. It is “the first definitive detection of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet,” according to Nicole Colon, a NASA Web project scientist. Although WASP-39 b is considered too hot to be habitable, the successful discovery of carbon dioxide illustrates the sharpness of Webb’s vision and heralds future examination of distant planets that may harbor life.

The telescope is controlled by engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. The Mission Operations Center is located on the second floor of the institute, which is on the edge of the Johns Hopkins University campus.

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One morning, only three people were working in the flight control room: operations controller Irma Araceli Kispi-Nera, ground systems engineer Evan Adams, and command controller Kayla Yates. They sat in a row of workstations with large screens loaded with data from telescope.

Take a cosmic tour inside images captured by NASA’s Webb Telescope

“We don’t usually live in business leadership,” Yates said. In other words, nobody controls the telescope with a joystick or anything like that. It operates largely independently, and meets a once-a-week monitoring schedule. A command is sent from the flight control room to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. From there it goes to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and then to the Deep Space Network – radio antennas near Barstow, California, and Madrid and Canberra, Australia. Depending on the Earth’s rotation, one of these antennas can send the command to the telescope.

The crowds of people on hand on Thursday morning disappeared from the Mission Operations Center in Baltimore telescope launch last Christmas.

“It’s a testament to how successful we are that we can go from several hundred to just three of us,” Adams said.

The observing schedule is largely determined by a desire to be efficient, and that often means looking at things that appear close together in the sky even if they are billions of light-years away from each other.

The visitor will be disappointed to realize that the flight control team does not see what the telescope sees. There is no large screen showing, for example, a comet, a galaxy, or the dawn of time. But the flight control team can read data describing the telescope’s orientation – for example, “32 degrees upward right, 12 degrees incline.” Then consult the star chart to see where the telescope is pointing.

“It’s between Andromeda and whatever other constellation it is,” Adams said.

‘Incredible’ images of Jupiter revealed by NASA’s James Webb Telescope

Here’s a sampling of some of Webb’s observations, which should yield new images, as well as scientific reports, in the coming months:

cart wheel galaxy: A strikingly beautiful and rare “ring” galaxy, about 500 million light-years away. Its unusual structure is the result of its collision with another galaxy. This was one of the The first images processed by the web team To show what a telescope can do.

M16, the Eagle Nebula: This “planetary nebula” within our galaxy is famous for being the home of a structure nicknamed the “Pillars of Creation” imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. It has become one of Hubble’s most famous images, showing three towering plumes of dust illuminated by hot young stars outside the image frame, all directed by NASA to produce what to the human eye looks like a landscape. Webb should produce an image with a similar frame but with new resolution and detail, thanks to the ability to collect light at infrared wavelengths inaccessible to Hubble.

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Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon: It is the largest moon in the solar system and even larger than the planet Mercury. Scientists believe it has a subsurface ocean with more water than all the oceans on Earth. The telescope will look for plumes, which are hot springs similar to what was observed on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Enceladus, said Webb project scientist Klaus Pontopedan.

Comet C/2017 K2: Discovered in 2017, it is an unusually large comet with a tail 500,000 miles long and pointed toward the sun.

The Great Barred Spiral Galaxy: Officially, “NGC-1365,” this is a gorgeous classic “rod”-helical galaxy with a central strip of stars connecting two prominent, arched arms. It is about 56 million light-years away.

Trappist-1 الكواكب Planetary System: Seven planets orbit this star, and many of them are in the “habitable zone,” which means they are at a distance from the star where water could be liquid on its surface. Astronomers want to know if these planets have atmospheres.

Draco and the sculptor: These are dwarf globular galaxies close to the Milky Way. By studying their motion over a long period of time, astronomers hope to learn more about the existence of dark matter – an invisible substance that has a gravitational sign.

This is just a partial list. There is a lot to see there.

“It’s nonstop, 24-7, just the science backsliding,” said Heidi Hamill, a planetary astronomer and vice president of science at the Consortium of Universities for Research in Astronomy. It’s a huge diversity of science. I saw Jupiter’s brilliant red spot – but two hours later, we’re now looking at M33, this spiral galaxy. Two hours later, we are now looking for an exoplanet that I already know by name. It’s so wonderful watching that.”