On 12 July 2022, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will release its first full-color images and spectroscopic data.

The largest and most complex observatory ever launched into space, James Webb Space Telescope, is the telescope that has been going through six months of preparation before it can begin scientific work, calibrating its instruments to its space environment and aligning its mirrors.

Why James Webb Telescope is more significant?

A joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), James Webb Telescope is the largest space telescope ever, with a 6.5-meter diameter mirror that will collect visible and infrared light from some of the earliest moments in our Universe.

Powerful enough to see back to the time shortly after the Big Bang, see how galaxies formed and evolve, and see how stars are born, the telescope is named after American astronomer, engineer, and aviation pioneer James E. Webb (1906-1992), former NASA Administrator from 1961 to 1968 and head of the Apollo program during which men first walked on the Moon.

In the words of astronomer Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb’s project scientist at Space Telescope Science Institute(STScI), their goals for Webb’s first images and data are both to showcase the telescope’s powerful instruments and to preview the scientific mission to come. Pontoppidan added, “They are sure to deliver a long-awaited ‘wow’ for astronomers and the public”.

NASA says the telescope will make the first images and spectroscopic observations after its science and engineering teams calibrate, test, and give the green light. The team is to proceed through a list of targets that they have preselected and prioritized by an international committee to exercise Webb’s powerful capabilities. After that, the production team will receive the data from Webb’s instrument scientists and process it into images for astronomers and the public.

What will the first images look like?

As astronomers say, the new telescope is so powerful that it is difficult to predict exactly how the first images will look. Quoting STScI’s lead science visuals developer Joseph DePasquale, NASA said, “Of course, there are things we are expecting and hoping to see, but with a new telescope and this new high-resolution infrared data, we just won’t know until we see it”.

However, they claim that these new images will be the first in full color and the first to showcase Webb’s full science capabilities.

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Along with this imagery, Webb will be capturing spectroscopic data – detailed information astronomers can read in light. The first image package of materials will highlight the science themes that inspired the mission and will be the focus of its work, which is the “early universe”, the “evolution of galaxies through time”, the “lifecycle of stars, and other worlds” etc.

According to NASA, all of Webb’s commissioning data – the data taken while aligning the telescope and preparing the instruments – will also be publicly available.

To date, James Webb Telescope is a huge and the most advanced telescope, with such a big telescope comes lots of responsibility for any team that works on it to make sure that they haven’t overlooked any detail. Leaving no stone unturned! Scientists say they are getting ready to reserve their first images as they prepare to put Webb through its paces. They also want to make enough preparations against any problems that may crop up during the testing and commissioning of the telescope.

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