It was one of the galaxy’s best kept secrets to date: What will we see in the first color science images from the James Webb Telescope, revealed next week? NASA dispelled some suspense Friday by releasing a list of the top five observed targets.
However, it is still necessary to wait until next Tuesday to see these images of stars and galaxies, which astronomers around the world have been waiting for and that promise to be amazing, as they are produced by the most powerful telescope sent into orbit.
The first target: the Carina Nebula, which is about 7,600 light-years away. The Hubble Space Telescope has already photographed it, revealing its giant plumes of dust and gas. But the images of James Webb, whose main mirror is used to capture the light of these far larger cosmic bodies, promise to be very impressive.
Nebulae are the nurseries of stars. NASA said in a statement that the Carina Nebula is home to many massive stars, several times the size of our Sun.
The Southern Ring Nebula is also one of the targets. It’s the so-called planetary nebula, which is a huge cloud of gas surrounding a dying star. It is located about 2,000 light years from Earth (a light year equals more than 9,400 billion km).
Another target: Stephan’s Quintet, a group of galaxies located in the constellation Pegasus. This is the first compact galaxy cluster that was discovered in 1787, according to NASA.
A group of galaxies called SMACS 0723 is also on the list. NASA says it distorts and amplifies the light of objects behind them, making it possible to see “extremely distant and inherently faint galactic clusters”.
Bill Nelson, the head of NASA, promised last week “the deepest picture of our universe ever taken.”
Finally, the first spectroscopy of the James Webb Telescope, a technique used to determine the chemical composition of a distant object, must also be announced.
WASP-96 b, a giant planet made up mainly of gas and located outside our solar system, will be 1,150 light-years away. Its discovery was announced in 2014 and has a mass about half the mass of Jupiter.
These observations were made as recently as James Webb became fully operational recently, after his Ariane 5 launch last Christmas and his long journey to reach his observation post, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. But NASA has let nothing leak out yet about these first images, so that surprise works.
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”