‘The majesty that’s out there’: NASA Unveils Deep-space Images

NASA officials on Tuesday drew back the curtain to a larger display of luminous images captured by the largest and most powerful observatory ever launched to space. This report produced by Zachary Goelman.

STORY: Breathtaking images of deep space taken by a telescope orbiting almost one million miles from earth were unveiled by NASA on Tuesday.

The first full-color, high-resolution pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope, designed to peer farther than ever before with greater clarity to the dawn of the universe, were hailed by NASA as milestone marking a new era of astronomical exploration.

Here’s NASA Administrator Bill Nelson:

“It’s clear that Webb represents the best of NASA. It maintains our ability to propel us forward, for science, for risk-taking, for inspiration.”

The debut image was a “deep field” photo of a distant galaxy cluster, revealing the most detailed glimpse of the early universe recorded to date.

But’s not just an array of color. It’s a glimpse back in time to the origins of, well, perhaps everything.

Here’s NASA scientist Jane Rigby:

“And so, galaxies like that one right there, this little red guy, what is that? Well, Webb got spectra, to figure out what those galaxies are made of, and this is that one. We’re seeing it as it looked 13.1 billion years in the past, less than a billion years after the big bang. And we’re seeing the elements of oxygen and hydrogen as well as neon. This is how the oxygen in our bodies was made. In stars, in galaxies, and we’re seeing that process get started.”

Other images included closeups of gas and dust clouds left by stellar explosions that form incubators for new stars, and a cluster of galaxies known as Stephans Quintet.

And apart from the imagery, NASA presented Webb’s first spectrographic analysis of a Jupiter-sized exoplanet more than 1,100 light years away, which led to this exciting discovery:

“What you’re seeing is the tell-tale signature, the chemical fingerprint of water vapor in this atmosphere, in the atmosphere of this specific exoplanet.”

Built to view its subjects chiefly in the infrared spectrum, Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than its 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

One thing the scientists repeatedly underscored on Tuesday was that Webb appeared to be performing better than they’d anticipated, and that the findings were more wondrous than they’d expected.

Several expressed being overcome with emotion at the interstellar sights.

“The universe has been out there. We just had to build a telescope to go see what was there. A very similar feeling of, of, maybe, people in a broken world managing to do something right, and to see some of the majesty that’s out there.”

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