NASA Reveals Stunning Cosmic Targets For Its Space Telescope's First Color Images

jwst space
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is one of the most highly anticipated missions in the space agency's recent history. It is set to capture deeper images of our universe than ever before. Even though the spacecraft has traveled nearly one million miles into deep space, its intended journey is just beginning.

JWST has been in the works since the beginning of the 21st century. A test image was recently shared by NASA (see image below), in order to show the potential of the space telescope. JWST was first named the "Next Generation Space Telescope," before being renamed after a former NASA administrator, James Webb. Mr. Webb is most commonly linked to the Apollo moon program, and ran the agency from February 1961 to October 1968. It is said he did more for science than perhaps any other government official, and thus is only fitting that the Next Generation Space Telescope be named after him.

jwst pic
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA

The Webb telescope is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. It was launched on its long journey from French Guiana by an Ariane 5 rocket in 2021. It was created in collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

The primary mirror, which is made up of 18 separate segments that unfolded and adjusted to shape after launch, is coated with gold to capture faint infrared light in deep space. A secondary mirror will be utilized to reflect light from the primary mirror into the space instruments. A five layered shield protects the observatory from the light and heat of the Sun and Earth, and makes it possible for the observatory and instruments to perform their individual functions.

The spacecraft is powered via a solar power array that is always facing the Sun. Panels convert the sunlight it collects into electricity in order to power the observatory. An Earth-pointing antenna sends the scientific data back to Earth and receives its directives from NASA's Deep Space Network.

These are just some of the many intricate parts to JWST and what makes it so astonishing. As we approach July 12, 2022, and the time NASA shares its first images from the Webb telescope, NASA has shared a list of cosmic targets the space telescope will be capturing its first images of.

webb telescope
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA

The images will represent the first wave of full-color scientific images and spectra JWST has gathered, and mark the beginning of Webb's awe-inspiring journey. The list was created by an international committee of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute:
  • Carina Nebula: One of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky. It is located approximately 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. 
  • WASP-96 b (spectrum): It is a giant planet outside our solar system, composed mainly of gas. The planet is approximately 1,150 light-years from Earth.  
  • Southern Ring Nebula: This nebula is an expanding cloud of gas, surrounding a dying star. It is nearly half a light-year in diameter and is about 2,000 light-years away from Earth. 
  • Stephen's Quintet: It is located in the constellation Pegasus, and is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877. Four of the five galaxies are "locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters". 
  • SMACS 0723: Massive foreground galaxy clusters magnify and distort the light of objects behind them, allowing a deep field view into both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations.
As the James Webb Space Telescope begins its journey, we are invited along for the ride. There will be numerous events being held across the United States, each taking part in the revealing of Webb's first images on July 12th. If you are wanting to join in on one of these events, you can go the event page and see which one(s) might be close to you. Be assured that if you cannot make any of the events listed there, we at HotHardware will be sharing the images as well, so be sure to check back on Tuesday for more.

Top Image Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA