It’s been almost two decades (though really more) in the making but the James Webb Space Telescope is finally about to commence one of the coolest and most groundbreaking projects in space exploration. The massive device is set to begin capturing pictures and looks at some of the deepest reaches of space, able to provide considerably more information about our universe, and its creation, than anything else in history. It launched officially a few months ago and this week we actually got the first images back as the telescope begins its final tune-ups. The image was the sharpest ever of a star, offering a totally new way to see our solar system.
As confirmed by NASA (via Science Alert), the James Webb Telescope was in the final stages of aligning its mirrors, preparing to begin the ultimate mission of capturing the furthest reaches of space. In that alignment, the telescope took an image of a star with the easy-to-remember and totally personal name TYC 4212-1079-1 which sits about 2,000 light-years away. This particular star burns significantly brighter than our own sun, and the image the telescope captured is breathtaking. Not only does the light shine out in almost majestic fashion, but the surrounding space around the star is accentuated as well. Frankly, it almost looks fake in comparison to other images we’ve seen of stars and solar systems over the years. Check it out:
See what I mean? This is stunning. The red filter of the James Webb Telescope is what helps the colors and brightness stand in the sharpest contrast to the surrounding space. It’s also what essentially makes the other stars off to the side and in the area of the shot also seem to “pop” against the background. And with the commissioning timeline of the telescope set to draw to a close in the coming months, we are likely to start getting a lot more images like this one.
The James Webb Space Telescope has been in development for some time now, which is a complete understatement. Things first kicked off all the way back in 1996 with the plan to develop a new age telescope able to see further into the universe than ever before. With operating and development costs pushing $10 billion (with a B) over the last couple of decades, the timeline has been protracted, to say the least. But finally, after all this time and testing, the telescope was launched back in December. Since then it has been going through stages of testing, alignment and positioning that will allow it to capture images in the purest form possible while also stay in orbit for at least five years (they could try to push it to ten).
What makes the James Webb Space Telescope unique is that it works with infrared astronomy, using these wavelengths to see a “different” image of deep space than we’ve gotten a glimpse of in the past. It’s made up of gold-plated mirrors that work almost like one continuous surface. The hexagonal construction allows it to capture light across a much wider spectrum than anything ever before launched into space. We are at the advent of the future here folks and in the coming years will get to see views of space we’ve simply never seen before.