A giant golden eye flying around the sun about a million miles from Earth will give humans an unprecedented view of the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope, a powerful $10 billion observatory run by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, has chilled down to its optimal temperature. Engineers have finished calibrating its scientific instruments. Now the telescope with a 21-foot-diameter mirror is open for business.
Get ready for stunning astronomical photos and data, scientists say.
Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn
“We’re only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said at a news briefing last week. “It may answer some questions that we have: Where do we come from? What more is out there? Who are we? And, of course, it’s going to answer some questions that we don’t even know what the questions are.”
For the first photo drop, NASA is planning to reveal the images, one by one, during a broadcasted event at 10:30 a.m. ET on July 12. You can watch this live event on NASA TV.
Then, you can ask the experts your burning questions about the new pictures and science. Questions can be submitted on social media using the hashtag #askNASA on Twitter or by leaving a comment in the chat section on Facebook. Representatives of the Webb team will answer some of these cosmic queries during a NASA Science Live program at 3 p.m. ET on July 13.
“It may answer some questions that we have: Where do we come from? What more is out there? Who are we?”
The huge telescope is comprised of 18 hexagonal-shaped mirrors, which are now perfectly aligned. Alignment test pictures have already shown the unmatched sharpness and clarity of the infrared telescope. But these upcoming images will be the first to provide full-color images and demonstrate Webb’s advanced science capabilities
NASA has kept most of the presentation a secret, but officials confirmed last week they’ll show a photo that is the farthest humans have ever looked into deep space.
What’s more, the space agency will release an atmospheric observation of a planet that is not in this solar system — what’s known as an exoplanet spectrum. The light data from the spectrum provides astronomers with detailed information about what molecules — like water, carbon dioxide, and methane — exist there. These findings could help determine whether other planets could be hospitable to life.
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