Get hyped for James Webb’s first color image today with this impressive comparison video

‘We’re only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do.’
Chris Young
An artist's impression of James Webb.NASA/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

U.S. President Joe Biden will reveal the first color image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope at the White House today, July 11, a press statement from NASA reveals.

It will mark the beginning of science operations for the most powerful space observatory launched to date. The reveal will also be the culmination of years of preparation for a $10 billion project that launched back on December 25, 2021, after years of preparation.

"We're going to give humanity a new view of the cosmos, and it's a view that we've never seen before," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who will be at the White House presentation later today, told reporters in a press briefing, via CBS News.

"One of those images... is the deepest image of our universe that has ever been taken," he said. "And we're only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do."

In an educational new video, amateur astrophotographer Ethan Gone highlights the immense power of James Webb's instruments by comparing a recent NASA teaser image to observations made from Earth.

It's official! NASA's first full-color image will be unveiled today

President Biden will reveal the first-ever full-color image taken by James Webb today. The full unveiling of NASA's first James Webb science images, meanwhile, will take place tomorrow, July 12, revealing to the world a wealth of scientific data. NASA has listed the main cosmic targets and images it will reveal tomorrow on its website.

These include a giant exoplanet, called WASP-96 b, located outside our galaxy, and the Carina Nebula, which is one of the largest and brightest nebulae visible in the sky. The U.S. space agency hasn't specified the contents of the image that will be revealed today.

Nelson's comments highlight the fact that we're only at the beginning of James Webb's journey, meaning the first color images will only scratch the surface of what we will see in the coming years.

An impressive video hints at the great power of James Webb

In the lead-up to the release of James Webb's first color images, an amateur astrophotographer, Ethan Gone, posted a video that gives a good indication of the power of James Webb. By comparing their own observations to a recent James Webb teaser image, they gave a hint as to the full extent of the space observatory's capabilities.

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Last week, NASA revealed a teaser image taken by James Webb's Fine Guidance Sensor. Gone trained their own Earth-based telescope on the same part of the sky and took six hours of exposure. Those six hours of exposure led to an impressive image showing an array of stars from our galaxy, and one distant galaxy named 2MASS 16235798+2826079.

Zooming further into a dark region of their observation, Gone shows it reveals a few faint stars. Then, thanks to some impressive editing, Gone's video seamlessly superimposes NASA's teaser image taken by James Webb over the amateur astrophotographer's observation.

In contrast to Gone's image, NASA's teaser image shows thousands of galaxies in parts of the sky that were black only a few seconds before. Be sure to watch the video yourselves (embedded above).

Get hyped for James Webb’s first color image today with this impressive comparison video
NASA's 'teaser' James Webb image. Source: NASA, CSA, and FGS team

Strikingly, the James Webb teaser image wasn't even taken by one of the space observatory's main image cameras.

The image was captured by the Fine Guidance Sensor, which captures images of distant space objects to look for points of interest. The James Webb team then trains the more powerful image capture instruments on the same region of the sky.

How to watch NASA's James Webb image reveal events

Earlier this year, NASA released the first calibration image taken by James Webb — an image of a star 2,000 lightyears away. But today and tomorrow are without doubt the main events, and they will usher in a bold new era for astronomy.

Both President Biden's White House photo reveal later today, and tomorrow's full reveal, can be watched on NASA TV via their YouTube channel (embedded above). The White House event will start at 17:00 ET today and the unveiling tomorrow will start at 10:30 ET, with a pre-show beginning a little earlier at 09:45 ET.