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Baby stars, dancing galaxies: NASA shows new cosmic views

DEVELOPMENT… The story will be updated as new information can be verified. Updated 4 times

GREENBELT, Maryland — A sparkling landscape of baby stars. A blue and orange frothy view of a dying star. Five galaxies in a cosmic dance. The splendours of the universe shone in a fresh batch of images released Tuesday by NASA’s mighty new telescope.

The unveiling of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope began Monday at the White House with a glimpse of the first shot – a jumble of distant galaxies that have sunk deeper into the cosmos than humanity has ever seen.

Tuesday’s releases showed parts of the universe seen by other telescopes. But Webb’s sheer power, remote location from Earth, and use of the infrared light spectrum showed them in a new light.

“It’s the beauty but also the story,” Webb’s Nobel Prize-winning NASA lead scientist John Mather said after the revelation. “It’s the story where we come from.”

And, he said, the more he looked at the images, the more convinced he became that life exists elsewhere in those thousands of stars and hundreds of galaxies.

With Webb, scientists hope to glimpse the light of the first stars and galaxies that formed 13.7 billion years ago, just 100 million years from the Big Bang that created the universe. The telescope will also scan the atmospheres of extraterrestrial worlds for possible signs of life.

“Each image is a new discovery and each will give humanity a view of humanity that we have never seen before,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday, gushing over images showing “ forming stars, devouring black holes”.

Webb’s use of the infrared light spectrum allows the telescope to see through cosmic dust and see distant light from corners of the universe, he said.

“We have really changed the understanding of our universe,” said European Space Agency Director General Josef Aschbacher.

The European and Canadian space agencies joined NASA to build the telescope, which launched in December after years of delays and cost overruns. Webb is considered the successor to the highly successful but aging Hubble Space Telescope.

Presented Tuesday:

– South Ring Nebula, sometimes called the “Eight Shards”. The images show a dying star with a frothy rim of escaping gas. It’s about 2,500 light years away. A light year is 5.8 trillion miles.

— The Carina Nebula, one of the brightest stellar nurseries in the sky, about 7,600 light-years away. One view was a stunning landscape of orange cliffs.

— Stephan’s Quinet, five galaxies in a cosmic dance that was first seen 225 years ago in the constellation Pegasus. It includes a black hole which scientists say showed material “swallowed up by this kind of cosmic monster”. Webb “just gave us an unprecedented new 290 million year old view of what this Quintet is doing,” Cornell University astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, who was not not part of the Webb team.

— A giant planet called WASP-96b. It is about the size of Saturn and is 1,150 light years away. A gaseous planet is not a candidate for life elsewhere but a key target for astronomers. Instead of an image, the telescope used its infrared detectors to observe the chemical composition of the planet’s atmosphere. He showed water vapor in the atmosphere of the super hot planet and even found the chemical spectrum of neon.

The images were released one by one at an event at NASA’s Goddard Space Center that included cheerleaders with pom poms the color of the telescope’s golden mirrors.

“It moves you. It’s so beautiful,” NASA Science Mission Chief Thomas Zurbuchen said after the event. ” Nature is beautiful. For me, it’s a matter of beauty.

The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope took off last December from French Guiana in South America. It reached its vantage point 1.6 million kilometers from Earth in January. Then the long process began of aligning the mirrors, cooling the infrared detectors enough to operate, and calibrating the scientific instruments, all protected by a tennis court-sized sun shield.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.