Webb Turns its Infrared Gaze on Mars

Graphic of Webb’s 2 NIRCam instrument images of Mars, taken on Sept. 5, 2022. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the most complex and sophisticated observatory ever deployed. Using its advanced suite of infrared instruments, coronographs, and spectrometers – contributed by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – this observatory will spend the next ten to twenty years building on the achievements of its predecessor, the venerable Hubble. This includes exoplanet characterization, star and planet formation, and the formation and evolution of the earliest galaxies in the Universe.

However, one of the main objectives of the JWST is to study the planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and other celestial bodies here in the Solar System. This includes Mars, the first Solar planet to get the James Webb treatment! The images Webb took (recently released by the ESA) provide a unique perspective on Mars, showing what the planet looks like in infrared wavelengths. The data yielded by these images could provide new insight into Mars’ atmosphere and environment, complimenting decades of observations by orbiters, landers, rovers, and other telescopes.

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Neptune and Its Rings Glow in Webb Telescope’s Portrait

JWST view of Neptune and rings
An infrared image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope shows Neptune and its rings. Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI / Joseph DePasquale

The first picture of Neptune to be taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals the latest, greatest details of the ice giant’s atmosphere, moons and rings in infrared wavelengths.

Some of those details — for example, faint bands of dust that encircle Neptune — haven’t been brought to light since the Voyager 2 probe zoomed past in 1989.

“It has been three decades since we last saw those faint, dusty bands, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared,” astronomer Heidi Hammel, an interdisciplinary scientist on the JWST team who specializes in Neptune, said today in a news release. Neptune’s brighter rings stand out even more clearly.

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There Could be as Many Water Worlds as Earths in the Milky Way

Artist’s impression of the strange landscape of a water world. Credit: Pilar Montañés

On July 12th, 2022, NASA released the first images acquired by the James Webb Space Telescope, which were taken during its first six months of operation. Among its many scientific objectives, Webb will search for smaller, rocky planets that orbit closer to their suns – especially dimmer M-type (red dwarf) stars, the most common in the Universe. This will help astronomers complete the census of exoplanets and gain a better understanding of the types of worlds that exist out there. In particular, astronomers are curious about how many terrestrial planets in our galaxy are actually “water worlds.”

These are rocky planets that are larger than Earth but have a lower density, which suggests that volatiles like water make up a significant amount (up to half) of their mass-fraction. According to a recent study by researchers from the University of Chicago and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), water worlds may be just as common as “Earth-like” rocky planets. These findings bolster the case for exoplanets that are similar to icy moons in the Solar System (like Europa) and could have significant implications for future exoplanet studies and the search for life in our Universe.

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Wow! Here's Webb's View of the Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team.

Here’s the Tarantula Nebula like we’ve never seen it before. The James Webb Space Telescope turned its detectors towards the Large Magellanic Cloud about 161,000 lightyears away to take a look at 30 Doradus, more commonly known as the Tarantula Nebula. JWST’s exceptional infrared view has now revealed thousands of never-before-seen young stars in this stellar nursery, as well incredible views of the wispy, dusty filaments and the impressive collection of massive older stars.

There is so much detail in this image, if you download the full-sized version, you can pan and zoom around to see details on stars and the surrounding dust and gas. And there are even other, more distant galaxies dotting the background. If you have a big screen, even better, as it takes up over 14,000 x 8,000 pixels. Or, take a look at the video tour, below.

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JWST Finds a Clear, Unambiguous Signal for Carbon Dioxide in an Exoplanet’s Atmosphere

A transmission spectrum of the hot gas giant exoplanet WASP-39 b, captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) on July 10, 2022, reveals the first definitive evidence for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet outside the Solar System. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and L. Hustak (STScI). Science: The JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Team

An early – and exciting — science result from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was announced today: the first unambiguous detection of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. This is the first detailed evidence for carbon dioxide ever detected in a planet outside our Solar System.

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The Latest Webb Observations Don’t Disprove The Big Bang, But They Are Interesting

Diagram showing the Lambda-CBR universe, from the Big Bang to the the current era. Credit: Alex Mittelmann/Coldcreation

Okay, so let’s start with the obvious. The big bang is not dead. Recent observations by the James Webb Space Telescope have not disproven the big bang, despite certain popular articles claiming otherwise. If that’s all you needed to hear, then have a great day. That said, the latest Webb observations do reveal some strange and unexpected things about the universe, and if you’d like to know more, keep reading.

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Webb Telescope Sees Jupiter and Its Auroras in a New Light

JWST view of Jupiter
The James Webb Space Telescope's NIRCam imager produced this composite image of the Jupiter system using orange and cyan filters. The image shows Jupiter's auroras as bright rims at the poles. The planet's rings and two of its moons, Amalthea and Adrastea, are also visible. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is designed to probe the farthest frontiers of the universe, but newly released images of Jupiter prove that the observatory can also bring fresh perspectives to more familiar celestial sights.

The infrared images reveal Jupiter’s polar auroras and its faint rings as well as two of its moons — plus some galaxies in the far background. The planet’s Great Red Spot is there as well, but because it’s seen through three of JWST’s specialized filters, it looks white rather than red.

JWST’s new perspective should give scientists a better sense of how the complex Jupiter system is put together.

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Has JWST Found Proto-Globular Clusters?

This image from VISTA is a tiny part of the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) survey that is systematically studying the central parts of the Milky Way in infrared light. On the right lies the globular star cluster UKS 1 and on the left lies a much less conspicuous new discovery, VVV CL001 — a previously unknown globular, one of just 160 known globular clusters in the Milky Way at the time of writing. The new globular appears as a faint grouping of stars about 25% of the width of the image from the left edge, and about 60% of the way from bottom to top. Credit: ESO/D. Minniti/VVV Team

The James Webb Space Telescope continues to deliver surprise after surprise. Next up, a team of astronomers have identified likely candidates for proto-globular clusters. Clusters like these can help astronomers understand the evolution and ultimate fate of galaxies like our own.

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A New Image From Webb Shows Galaxy NGC 1365, Known to Have an Actively Feeding Supermassive Black Hole

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Judy Schmidt

The James Webb Space Telescope continues to deliver stunning images of the Universe, demonstrating that the years of development and delays were well worth the wait! The latest comes from Judy Schmidt (aka. Geckzilla, SpaceGeck), an astrophotographer who processed an image taken by Webb of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365. Also known as the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy, NGC 1365 is a double-barred spiral galaxy consisting of a long bar and a smaller barred structure located about 56 million light-years away in the southern constellation Fornax.

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Here’s the Largest Image JWST Has Taken So Far

Image of CEERS scientists looking at the Epoch 1 NIRCam color mosaic in TACC's visualization lab at UT Austin. Credit: R. Larson

A team of scientists using the James Webb Space Telescope have just released the largest image taken by the telescope so far. The image is a mosaic of 690 individual frames taken with the telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and it covers an area of sky about eight times as large as JWST’s First Deep Field Image released on July 12. And it is absolutely FULL of stunning early galaxies, many never seen before. Additionally, the team may have photographed one of the most distant galaxies yet observed.

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