The universe is scattered.
And you can see it in a new cosmic photo captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful space observatory ever built. Astronomers pointed the massive instrument, which orbits 1 million miles from Earth, to a cluster of galaxies around it. 6.3 billion miles away.
This cluster of galaxies, called SDSS J1226+2149, contains so many stars and planets that it’s literally scattered space, like a bowling ball sitting on a mattress. Distorted cosmic regions distort and magnify distant objects.
“This effect, which astronomers refer to as gravitational lensing, occurs when a massive celestial body such as a galaxy cluster causes spacetime to bend enough to visibly bend light around it, as if by a giant lens,” Written by the European Space Agency(opens in a new tab).
The Webb Telescope just found massive objects that shouldn’t be in deep space
Indeed, there is a massive cosmic lens between us and the objects behind SDSS J1226+2149. This natural lens, combined with the viewing power of the Webb Telescope, allows astronomers to glimpse some of the oldest galaxies ever formed, born 13 billion years ago when the universe was still young.
In the image below, lower right, you can see a shocking example of distorted light caused by warped spacetime. These are red, elongated shapes. In particular, a red, “long, bright and distorted halo spread out near the core,” the space agency explains, an object called a “cosmic seahorse.” Such strong magnification allows scientists to peer into these galaxies and perceive star formation within this distant realm of space.
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In the lower-right quadrant of this James Webb Space Telescope image, you can spy galaxies distorted by gravitational lensing.
Credit: ESA/Web// NASA/CSA/J. Rigby
The Webb Telescope, which has not yet operated for a year, has unprecedented insights ahead. And it won’t just look at deeply distant galaxies.
Powerful capabilities of the Web telescope
The Webb Telescope, a scientific collaboration between NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency, is designed to peer into the deepest universe and reveal unprecedented insights into the early universe. But it’s also looking at interesting planets in our galaxy and even planets in our solar system
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Here’s how the web is achieving incredible things, and probably will for decades:
Large mirror: The web’s mirror, which captures light, spans over 21 feet. It is two and a half times larger than the mirror of the Hubble Space Telescope. Capturing more light allows the web to see more distant, ancient objects. As described above, the telescope is looking at stars and galaxies that formed 13 billion years ago, just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
“We’re going to see the first stars and galaxies that ever formed,” Gene Creighton, an astronomer and director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Manfred Olson Planetarium, told Mashable in 2021.
Infrared View: Unlike Hubble, which mainly looks at light visible to us, the Webb is primarily an infrared telescope, meaning it looks at light in the infrared spectrum. It allows us to see more of the universe. Infrared is long wavelength(opens in a new tab) Light waves therefore slip more efficiently through cosmic clouds than visible light; Light does not often collide with these densely packed particles and is not scattered. Finally, Webb’s infrared vision can penetrate places Hubble can’t.
“It lifted the veil,” Creighton said.
Peering to distant exoplanets: Web Telescope It carries a special instrument called a spectrometer(opens in a new tab) which will revolutionize our understanding of this distant world. Instruments can decipher what molecules (such as water, carbon dioxide and methane) exist in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets — whether gas giants or small rocky worlds. Webb will look at exoplanets in the Milky Way Galaxy. Who knows what we will find.
“We can learn things we never thought possible,” said Mercedes López-Morales, an exoplanet researcher and astrophysicist. Center for Astrophysics-Harvard and Smithsonian(opens in a new tab)told Mashable in 2021.
Meanwhile, astronomers have successfully detected intriguing chemical reactions on a planet 700 light-years away, and the observatory has begun looking at one of the most anticipated places in the universe: the rocky, Earth-sized planet of the Trappist solar system. What’s out there?
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