NASA teases James Webb Space Telescope's first celestial targets

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,450   +170
Staff member
In brief: NASA is just days away from revealing the first full-color images and spectroscopic data captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. As if we weren't already teeming with anticipation, the space agency has added some fuel to the fire by teasing Webb's first celestial targets.

Targets were chosen by an international committee of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute, and mark the official beginning of Webb's general science operations.

NASA previously shared images from its coldest instrument, the Mid-Infrared instrument (MIRI for short) but those were just test images to demonstrate it was working properly.

Webb's first official targets are as follows:

  • Carina Nebula: The Carina Nebula is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, located approximately 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. Nebulae are stellar nurseries where stars form. The Carina Nebula is home to many massive stars, several times larger than the Sun.
  • WASP-96 b (spectrum): WASP-96 b is a giant planet outside our solar system, composed mainly of gas. The planet, located nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth, orbits its star every 3.4 days. It has about half the mass of Jupiter, and its discovery was announced in 2014.
  • Southern Ring Nebula: The Southern Ring, or "Eight-Burst" nebula, is a planetary nebula – an expanding cloud of gas, surrounding a dying star. It is nearly half a light-year in diameter and is located approximately 2,000 light years away from Earth.
  • Stephan's Quintet: About 290 million light-years away, Stephan's Quintet is located in the constellation Pegasus. It is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877. Four of the five galaxies within the quintet 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, permitting a deep field view into both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations.

Images from these first observations will be released during NASA's live broadcast starting at 10:30 a.m. Eastern on July 12. The agency said images will be shared simultaneously across social media and on its website.

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VitalyT

Posts: 6,400   +7,180
Coool, but I'll pass. Tell us when they start looking at exoplanets, then I will be interested. Otherwise, those are just nice pictures to me - NFT-s anyone? LOL.
 

Irata

Posts: 2,221   +3,857
Those sound like great targets but I‘m wondering why they are also not looking at nearby galaxies like e.g. the Alpha Centauri system.

Having more details of our ‚close‘ neighbors also seems useful.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,300   +8,475
I'm curious to find a list of intended projects like they had on the last one. NASA used to publish it but I cannot find it on their website .....
 

DaveBG

Posts: 632   +297
At this point they are artificially delaying it just to stay "cool"... No need to prevent scientists from getting this data ... come on.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
Those sound like great targets but I‘m wondering why they are also not looking at nearby galaxies like e.g. the Alpha Centauri system.
That's in our galaxy, not a nearby one. It's also quite uninteresting, particularly in the mid-infrared spectrum that Webb observes in.
 

Irata

Posts: 2,221   +3,857
That's in our galaxy, not a nearby one. It's also quite uninteresting, particularly in the mid-infrared spectrum that Webb observes in.
Well, it does have several instruments to study exoplanets and personally I‘d like to know more about exoplanets that are in our galactic neighborhood.

That‘s not saying that an analysis of very far away galaxies is not interesting - the two don‘t need to be mutually exclusive.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 8,251   +7,599
I think it has to produce some real results before getting any accolades.
It already has. Telescope test captures 'deepest images of the universe ever taken'

This was not captured with one of the main image sensors designed to produce scientific results. It is a mosaic from the Fine Guidance Sensor - an instrument that is designed to allow the telescope to track objects. It is a primary instrument, however, it is designed to facilitate the capture of images by the main imagining sensors by keeping those sensors correctly aimed at target objects. It is not designed to be an image capturing instrument on its own - yet it has done so.

If that is not a real and amazing result that deserves accolades, what is?

And we all know that more is yet to come - from the main sensors.