In brief: NASA is just days away from unveiling the first color images and spectroscopic data captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. As if we weren’t already anticipating, the space agency has added some fuel to the fire by teasing Webb’s first celestial targets.
goals were chosen by an international committee of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA and the Space Telescope Science Institute, marking the official beginning of Webb’s general science operations.
NASA previously shared images of its coldest instrument, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI for short), but those were just test images to show it was working properly.
Webb’s first official goals are as follows:
- Carina Nebula: The Carina Nebula is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, located about 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. Nebulae are stellar nurseries where stars are formed. The Carina Nebula is home to many massive stars, several times larger than the Sun.
- WASP-96b (Spectrum): WASP-96 b is a giant planet outside our solar system, made up mostly of gas. Located nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth, the planet orbits its star every 3.4 days. It has about half the mass of Jupiter and its discovery was announced in 2014.
- Southern Ring Nebula: The Southern Ring, or “Eight-Burst” Nebula, is a planetary nebula – an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds a dying star. It is nearly half a light-year across and is located about 2,000 light-years from Earth.
- Stephan’s quintet: About 290 million light-years away, Stephan’s Quintet is located in the constellation Pegasus. It is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877. Four of the five galaxies within the quintet are locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters.
- SMACS 0723: Huge clusters of foreground galaxies magnify and distort the light from objects behind them, allowing for a deep view of both the extremely distant and intrinsically faint galaxy populations.
Footage of these first sightings will be released during NASA’s live broadcast beginning July 12 at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. website†