Biden unveils first image from James Webb Space Telescope

Biden unveils first image from James Webb Space Telescope

by Jeff Mason and Steve Gorman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday unveiled the first image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, which shows a cluster of galaxies with unprecedented precision, as the device is expected to provide unprecedented information about the cosmos.

This photo released by the White House serves as a taste of the series of photos and spectrographic data that the American space agency, NASA, plans to unveil Tuesday from a space center located in the State of Maryland.

Webb, designed by NASA to help shed light on the birth of the first galaxies, had reached its final destination in solar orbit last January, about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

Comprised of an array of 18 hexagonal segments made of beryllium metal coated in gold and measuring 6.5 meters in diameter, the telescope can collect more light and observe more distant objects than its predecessor Hubble and other telescopes. .

It should provide unprecedented insights into the cosmos, dating back just 100 million years after the Big Bang – the theoretical explosion that triggered the expansion of the observable universe around 13.8 billions of years.

His instruments also make Webb ideal for searching for evidence of potentially life-sustaining atmospheres around dozens of recently documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and observing worlds much closer to us. , like Mars and Titan, the icy moon of Saturn.

Webb is the result of an international collaboration led by NASA with the European and Canadian space agencies.

The photo shows the cluster of galaxies called SMACS 0723, over 4 billion years old. According to NASA Director General Bill Nelson, at least one of the light streaks appearing in the “background” of the photo is over 13 billion years old, or just 800 million years old. after the Big Bang.

“It’s a new window into the history of our universe,” Joe Biden said before unveiling the image.

The French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) stressed on Twitter that the image broadcast on Monday is “the most precise and the most distant ever obtained. It represents a portion of the sky equivalent to the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length”.

(Reporting Jeff Mason in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, with Joey Roulette; French version Jean Terzian)

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