NASA space telescope shows first color image of distant galaxies
Webb telescope captured 'the most detailed view of the early universe to date'
US President Joe Biden on Monday unveiled the first full-color photo from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which showed the most detailed image of the early universe ever seen.
The photo showcased by Biden and NASA chief Bill Nelson showed the 4.6 billion-year-old galaxy cluster named SMACS 0723, Reuters reported. Its combined mass acts as a "gravitational lens," distorting space to greatly magnify the light coming from more distant galaxies behind it.
According to Nelson, at least one of the faint, older specs of light pictured in the "background" of the photo dates back over 13 billion years, which makes it 800 million years younger than the Big Bang that set the expansion of the known universe in motion.
The thousands of galaxies were captured in a tiny patch of the sky roughly the size of a grain of sand held at arm's length by someone standing on Earth, Nelson noted. According to NASA, the SMACS 0723 image offers "the most detailed view of the early universe to date."
"It's a new window into the history of our universe," Biden was quoted as saying before revealing the image. "And today we're going to get a glimpse of the first light to shine through that window: light from other worlds, orbiting stars far beyond our own. It's astounding to me," he added.
The image release came on the eve of a larger unveiling of photos and data that NASA will present on Tuesday at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The $9 billion Webb observatory is the largest and most powerful space science telescope ever constructed.
Designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the known universe, it is about 100 times more sensitive than its 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope. Webb was launched to space on Christmas Day 2021 from French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of south America.