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.

Continue reading “Webb Turns its Infrared Gaze on Mars”

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.

Continue reading “Wow! Here's Webb's View of the Tarantula Nebula”

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.

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

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.

Continue reading “Here’s the Largest Image JWST Has Taken So Far”

The Record for the Farthest Galaxy just got Broken Again, now just 250 million years after the Big Bang

Artist's illustration of a protogalaxy. Midjourney AI.
Artist's illustration of a protogalaxy. This is not real, it's just a colorful image generated by Midjourney AI.

In a recent study submitted to MNRAS, a collaborative research team has utilized the first set of data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) discovering a galaxy candidate, CEERS-93316, that formed approximately 250 million years after the Bing Bang, which also set a new redshift record of z = 16.7. This finding is extremely intriguing as it demonstrates the power of JWST, which only started sending back its first set of data a few weeks ago. CEERS stands for Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey, and was specifically created for imaging with JWST.

Continue reading “The Record for the Farthest Galaxy just got Broken Again, now just 250 million years after the Big Bang”

Even Citizen Scientists are Getting Time on JWST

This artist’s illustration shows a dim, cold brown dwarf in space. Brown dwarfs form like stars, but do not have enough mass to ignite nuclear fusion in their cores – the process that causes stars to burn. As a result they share some physical characteristics with massive planets, like Jupiter. Credits: IPAC/Caltech

Over the years, members of the public have regularly made exciting discoveries and meaningful contributions to the scientific process through citizen science projects. These citizen scientists sometimes mine large datasets for cosmic treasures, uncovering unknown objects such as Hanny’s Voorwerp, or other times bring an unusual phenomenon to scientists’ attention, such as the discovery of the new aurora-like spectacle called STEVE.  Whatever the project, the advent of citizen science projects has changed the nature of scientific engagement between the public and the scientific community.  

Now, unusual brown dwarf stars discovered by citizen scientists will be observed by the James Webb Space Telescope, with the hopes of learning more about these rare objects. Excitingly, one of the citizen scientists has been named as a co-investigator on a winning Webb proposal.

Continue reading “Even Citizen Scientists are Getting Time on JWST”

Another Amazing Image from Webb, This Time it’s Galaxy IC 5332

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) continues to both dazzle and amaze with its latest image, this time of Galaxy IC 5332, also known as PGC 71775, which is an intermediate spiral galaxy located approximately 30 million light years away. This comes after JWST released its first images at its full power, which includes the Carina Nebula, Stephan’s Quintet, Southern Ring Nebula, and SMACS 0723, the last of which was the deepest and sharpest image of the distant universe to date.

Continue reading “Another Amazing Image from Webb, This Time it’s Galaxy IC 5332”

Here’s M74 Like You’ve Never Seen it Before, Thanks to Judy Schmidt and JWST

The JWST recently imaged NGC628, also knows an M74. Well-known astronomy image processor Judy Schmidt reworked the image to show more detail. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STSCI/JUDY SCHMIDT CC BY 2.0

The JWST is grabbing headlines and eyeballs as its mission gains momentum. The telescope recently imaged M74 (NGC 628) with its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI.) Judy Schmidt, a well-known amateur astronomy image processor, has worked on the image to bring out more detail.

Continue reading “Here’s M74 Like You’ve Never Seen it Before, Thanks to Judy Schmidt and JWST”

JWST Also Looked Inside the Solar System, at Jupiter and its Moons

Jupiter, center, and its moon Europa, left, are seen through the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument 2.12 micron filter. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

After the ‘big reveal’ earlier this week of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first full color images and spectra of the universe, the science team has now released data from closer to home. One stunning shot includes Jupiter and its moons, and there are also data from several asteroids. These latest data are actually just engineering images, designed to test JWST’s ability to track solar system targets, as well as test out how the team can produce images from the data. The quality and detail in these test images have excited the mission scientists.

Continue reading “JWST Also Looked Inside the Solar System, at Jupiter and its Moons”

A Test Image From Webb Just Happens to be the Deepest Image Ever Taken of the Universe

This Fine Guidance Sensor test image was acquired in parallel with NIRCam imaging of the star HD147980 over a period of eight days at the beginning of May. This engineering image represents a total of 32 hours of exposure time at several overlapping pointings of the Guider 2 channel. The observations were not optimized for detection of faint objects, but nevertheless the image captures extremely faint objects and is, for now, the deepest image of the infrared sky. The unfiltered wavelength response of the guider, from 0.6 to 5 micrometers, helps provide this extreme sensitivity. The image is mono-chromatic and is displayed in false color with white-yellow-orange-red representing the progression from brightest to dimmest. The bright star (at 9.3 magnitude) on the right hand edge is 2MASS 16235798+2826079. There are only a handful of stars in this image – distinguished by their diffraction spikes. The rest of the objects are thousands of faint galaxies, some in the nearby universe, but many, many more in the distant universe. Credit: NASA, CSA, and FGS team.

A ‘throwaway’ engineering image from the James Webb Space Telescope’s commissioning phase has turned out to be a stunningly deep view of the cosmos. It rivals the deepest of Hubble Deep Field images in revealing previously unseen distant galaxies.

Continue reading “A Test Image From Webb Just Happens to be the Deepest Image Ever Taken of the Universe”