Behold, our closest galactic neighbor, as seen by Webb.
NASA released another batch of breathtaking images from the James Webb Space Telescope during a Monday morning press conference, which was held to further report on Webb's readiness as alignment efforts go on, according to a blog post shared on NASA's official website.
"Stunning" doesn't do it justice.
The James Webb Space Telescope reveals another test image
The image above is of the Large Magellanic Cloud, as captured via Webb's MIRI instrument — which specializes in -mid-infrared imaging. It displays the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) test image, at 7.7 microns, debuting a section of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) as never seen before. The LMC is a small, satellite galaxy to our own Milky Way, but one that contains dense star fields, thus serving as an apt field in which to test Webb's next-gen capabilities.
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In the image above, you can see a zoomed-in section of the sweet MIRI image juxtaposed to an earlier image of the same target region of the LMC snapped up by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope — via the latter's Infrared Array Camera (8.0 microns). Spitzer's been retired, but the observatory was one of the first to supply high-resolution images of the universe, in both near- and mid-infrared, according to NASA's blog post.
The James Webb Space Telescope will begin science missions this summer
By contrast, Webb's primary mirror, compounded by its enhanced detectors, will provide scientists a much sharper view of the infrared sky — and that means more potential breakthroughs in deep-space astronomy. "For example, Webb's MIRI image shows the interstellar gas in unprecedented detail," read the blog post from NASA.
"Here, you can see the emission from 'polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,' or molecules of carbon and hydrogen that play an important role in the thermal balance and chemistry of interstellar gas," continued NASA's post. Once Webb commences its official scientific missions, studies of regions like this using MIRI will show astronomers how young stars and protoplanetary systems came to be.
Until then, officials on the ground supervising the James Webb Space Telescope are continuing to test Webb's highly advanced equipment, with the first experiments starting this summer. From then on, the updates are going to increase in frequency, as the future of astronomy begins to accelerate like never before, and the history of the universe begins to unfold, right before our eyes.
This was developing news about Webb's newest test image and was regularly updated as new information became available.