Why the First Webb Telescope Image Is So Distorted, Twisted, and Weird

Why the First Webb Telescope Image Is So Distorted, Twisted, and Weird

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In the first image released by NASA from the Webb telescope, some galaxies look like stretched candy floss.

That’s because the universe itself has altered our view of the deep cosmos.

Astronomers recently noted the colossal James Webb Space Telescope in a cluster of galaxies called SMACS 0723. Fundamentally, galaxies are enormously massive objects, since they contain hundreds of billions of stars, millions of black holesY maybe trillions of planets. The combined mass of these galaxies warps space, like a bowling ball on a mattress.

This warped space essentially creates a “lens” through which we look. So the light from the galaxies behind this galaxy cluster that we (or the Webb telescope) ultimately see is distorted. It’s an occurrence called “gravitational lensing.” Like the Space Telescope Science Institute (which runs the telescope) Explain: “It’s like having a camera lens between us and the most distant galaxies.”

SEE ALSO:

The first stunning cosmic images from the James Webb telescope are here

Albert Einstein predicted the effect of gravitational lensing more than a century ago. Some of the galaxies we can see next in Webb’s first deep view of the cosmos are then magnified, and some are deeply stretched or distorted.

“They have been magnified by the cluster’s gravity, just as Einstein said they would,” said NASA astrophysicist Jane Rigby at the reveal of the first science images of Webb.

NASA calls this image “Webb’s First Deep Field.” It is an image of the galaxy cluster “SMACS 0723”. The mass of the galaxies distorts and magnifies, more distant galaxies in the background
Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

In the image above, the ethereal white-looking galaxy cluster is about 4.6 billion years old. They formed around the same time as the sun and Earth, Rigby said. It is these white galaxies that magnify and alter the view behind.

These more distant objects, which include red dots and strangely distorted galaxies, are among the oldest objects in the cosmos. “All of the tiny, super-faint, dark red dots, as well as many of the brightest and most oddly shaped objects in this amazing image, are extremely distant galaxies that no human eye has ever seen before,” Harald Ebeling, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii . astronomy institute, said in a statement.

The faintest objects in this Webb image are about 13.1 billion years old, Rigby said. However, Webb will soon look even further into the past, over 13.5 billion years agoshortly after the first stars and galaxies formed.

deep space observatory

The Webb Telescope: A Collaboration Between POT, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, is designed to make unprecedented discoveries. “With this telescope, it’s really hard not to break records,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, an astrophysicist and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. said recently at a press conference.

This is how Webb will achieve unprecedented things:

  • giant mirror: Webb’s mirror, which captures light, is more than 21 feet wide. That is more than two and a half times larger than the hubble space telescope mirror. Capturing more light allows Webb to see more distant ancient objects.

    “We’re going to see the first stars and galaxies that formed,” Jean Creighton, an astronomer and director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, told Mashable last year.

  • Infrared view: Unlike Hubble, which largely sees light that is visible to us, Webb is primarily an infrared telescope, meaning it sees light in the infrared spectrum. This allows us to see much more of the universe. Infrared has more time wavelengths than visible light, so light waves slide more efficiently through cosmic clouds; light does not collide as often and is not scattered by these densely packed particles. Ultimately, Webb’s infrared view can penetrate places that Hubble can’t.

    “Lift the veil,” Creighton said.

  • Scrutinizing distant exoplanets: The Webb Telescope carries specialized equipment, called spectrometers, which will revolutionize our understanding of these distant worlds. The instruments can decipher what molecules (such as water, carbon dioxide and methane) exist in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets, whether they are gas giants or smaller rocky worlds. Webb will observe exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy. Who knows what we will find.

    “We could learn things we never thought about,” Mercedes López-Morales, exoplanet researcher and astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics-Harvard & Smithsonianhe told Mashable in 2021.


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