NASA on Tuesday unveiled a new batch of images from its powerful space telescope, including a foamy blue and orange shot of a dying star.
The first image from the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was released Monday at the White House — a jumble of distant galaxies that went deeper into the cosmos than humanity has ever seen.
The four additional photos released Tuesday included more cosmic beauty shots.
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With one exception, the latest images showed parts of the universe seen by other telescopes. But Webb’s sheer power, distant location off Earth and use of the infrared light spectrum showed them in new light.
“Every image is a new discovery and each will give humanity a view of the humanity that we’ve never seen before,’’ NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday, rhapsodizing over images showing “the formation of stars, devouring black holes.”
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Webb's use of the infrared light spectrum allows the telescope to see through the cosmic dust and “see light from faraway light from the corners of the universe,” he said.
“We’ve really changed the understanding of our universe,” said European Space Agency director general Josef Aschbacher.
The European and Canadian space agencies joined NASA in building the powerful telescope.
Monday's "deep field" image from the telescope is the farthest humanity has ever seen in both time and distance, closer to the dawn of time and the edge of the universe. The photo showed lots of stars, with massive galaxies in the foreground and faint and extremely distant galaxies peeking through here and there. Part of the image is light from not too long after the Big Bang, which was 13.8 billion years ago.
The busy image with hundreds of specks, streaks, spirals and swirls of white, yellow, orange and red is only “one little speck of the universe,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.
“What we saw today is the early universe,” Harvard astronomer Dimitar Sasselov said in a phone interview after the reveal.
The world’s biggest and most powerful space telescope rocketed away last December from French Guiana in South America. It reached its lookout point 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth in January. Then the lengthy process began to align the mirrors, get the infrared detectors cold enough to operate and calibrate the science instruments, all protected by a sunshade the size of a tennis court that keeps the telescope cool.
The plan is to use the telescope to peer back so far that scientists will get a glimpse of the early days of the universe about 13.7 billion years ago and zoom in on closer cosmic objects, even our own solar system, with sharper focus.