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NASA lifts the veil on the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope

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NASA dispelled some of the suspense on Friday by releasing the list of the first five targets that have been observed. However, we will still have to wait until next Tuesday to see these images of stars and galaxies.

It’s been one of the galaxy’s best-kept secrets so far: What will we see in the first scientific, color images from the James Webb Telescope, unveiled next week? NASA dispelled some of the suspense on Friday by releasing the list of the first five targets that have been observed.

However, it will still be necessary to wait until next Tuesday to see these images of stars and galaxies, awaited by astronomers around the world and which promise to be spectacular, as they are produced by the most powerful telescope ever sent into orbit.

The first target: the Carina Nebula, located about 7,600 light-years away. The Hubble Space Telescope has already photographed it, revealing its gigantic pillars of dust and gas. But the images of James Webb, whose main mirror used to capture the light of these distant cosmic objects is much larger, promise to be very impressive.

Nebulae are nurseries of stars. The Carina Nebula is home to many massive stars, several times the size of our Sun, NASA said in a statement.

Amplify light from objects

The Southern Ring Nebula is also one of the targets. It is a so-called planetary nebula, a huge cloud of gas surrounding a dying star. It is located about 2,000 light-years from Earth (a light-year is equivalent to more than 9.400 billion kilometers).

Another target: Stephan’s Quintet, a group of galaxies located in the constellation of Pegasus. This is the first compact group of galaxies discovered, in 1787, according to NASA.

The galaxy cluster called SMACS 0723 is also on the list. NASA says it distorts and amplifies the light from objects behind it, making it possible to see into “populations of galaxies that are both extremely distant and inherently dim.” Bill Nelson, the head of NASA, promised last week “the deepest image ever taken of our universe”.

1.5 million kilometers from Earth

Finally, the first spectroscopy of the James Webb telescope, a technique used to determine the chemical composition of a distant object, must also be made public on Tuesday. It will be WASP-96 b, a giant planet composed mainly of gas and located outside our solar system, 1,150 light years away. Its discovery was announced in 2014 and its mass is about half that of Jupiter.

These observations were made recently, James Webb being fully operational recently, after his launch by an Ariane 5 rocket last Christmas and his long journey to reach his observation post, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. But NASA had so far let nothing leak out about these first images, so that the surprise is successful.

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