The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is already ready , will officially “go to work” on July 12 and begin formal scientific research observations. In order to celebrate the official opening of the telescope, generally speaking, a special object with special significance will be photographed to demonstrate the performance of the telescope, which is called “consecration”. This time, however, NASA and its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, chose five targets to showcase different aspects of JWST’s future work.
First and foremost, the main target is the Carina Nebula, 7,600 light-years away. It’s one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the night sky, and stars are forming in it. The structure of the Carina Nebula is quite complex and detailed ( pictured here by Hubble ) and should be well suited to demonstrate the resolving power of the JWST.
The second target is the exoplanet WASP-96b. The planet is 1,150 light-years away and has about half the mass of Jupiter. Instead of trying to take images, JWST will take spectra and try to analyze the planet’s atmosphere from the spectra. One of the mission goals of JWST is to analyze the composition of exoplanets, especially several planets that may be similar to Earth. From this spectral analysis, we should be able to know how high resolution JWST is.
The third target is NGC 3132, 2,000 light-years away, also known as the Southern Ring Nebula. Unlike the previous Carina Nebula, NGC 3132 is created by the material ejected after the star exploded. The fourth target is much further away, the “Stephen Quintet” 290 million light-years away. Not only are these five galaxies visually close, but four of them are actually very close, pulling each other by gravity. The JWST will be able to analyze it from an infrared perspective, and the Stephen’s Quintet also represents a distant observation target.
The last goal represents the most important task of JWST. This target, named SMACS 0723, is actually a group of galaxies in the foreground, and through the effect of gravitational lensing, the background of extremely distant galaxies is magnified by refraction. The characteristics of the JWST infrared telescope allow it to see objects that are farther and older than the Hubble in the optical band. Astronomers are also very much looking forward to JWST being able to see the appearance of objects formed earlier in the universe, and SMACS 0723 may contain such an object.
These five images will be released on July 12, when we will know the true strength of the $10 billion JWST.