One of the first views from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope showing “the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date” was officially released to the public on Monday. Taken by the telescope’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam), the picture is a composite put together from images collected at different wavelengths over the course of 12.5 hours. According to NASA, it shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.
“Thousands of galaxies—including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared—have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time,” NASA said. “This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.”
As previously reported by AVweb, the James Webb Space Telescope launched last Christmas from the Arianespace Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. Mission goals for the telescope include searching for the first galaxies or luminous objects formed after the Big Bang, determining how galaxies evolved from their formation until now, observing the formation of stars from the first stages to the formation of planetary systems, and measuring the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems. NASA plans to release a full suite of images beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.