First photos from the Webb Telescope will include the deepest part of the universe

An impression of the Webb Telescope in space.

It has now been six months since the Webb Space Telescope launched from French Guiana to its vantage point in space, one million kilometers from us. Now the first color images from the telescope are finally being taken; they will be made public on July 12.

At a press conference today, NASA officials offered some tantalizing details about the images and gave some updates on the Webb’s performance. The team announced that the next release will include the deepest image in the universe, and at least one exoplanet’s spectra will be included in the images.

“It can answer some of the questions we ask ourselves: where do we come from? What more is there? Who are we ? said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson at the press conference. “In many ways, Webb’s journey has only just begun.”

When Webb launched on December 25, 2021, it was rolled up in an Ariane 5 rocket like a very expensive bat in a crawl space. It took him a month to reach L2, where he will remain for the duration of his tenure, and was even pictured there itself by a telescope in Italy.

Since then, the public has been receiving a constant stream of information about alignment of Webb’s mirrors and the commissioning of the telescope’s scientific instruments. This resulted in the remarkably sharp image of the Large Magellanic Cloud captured by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) in May.

This was a test image, but the images coming July 12 will be the real deal: the first images Webb science targets, as well as the first photos transformed into color. Alongside these first images, the Webb team releases the results of 120 hours of observations, a delightful first course for astronomers eager to peer into the cosmos more deeply than ever before.

We do not yet know which exoplanet will be imaged, but we do know to know why objects like this are watched. The atmospheric chemistry of exoplanets helps planetary scientists understand the true diversity of distant worlds, and astrobiologists can search for water vapor and gases that could indicate the presence of life.

Webb’s images will take stock of the worlds in great detail and can draw on the current list of exoplanets produced by the Transiting exoplanet study satellite and the Kepler spacecraftamong other tasks.

The accuracy of Webb’s launch and the course corrections the telescope had to make cannot be underestimated; enough fuel was saved in the process to keep Webb running for at least 20 years.

Webb will periodically pass through debris fields and even this month was hit by a micrometeoroid, but the Webb team can orient the telescope to shield it from the rocky world. And it will have to be sturdy; after years of planning, building, and advocating for funding—and above all, expect-Webb is about to meet his moment.

More: New video shows Webb Space Telescope’s farewell to Earth

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