NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope sends over breathtaking photos of Neptune rings

  • The JWST space telescope was launched by NASA on 20th December 2021.
  • NASA recently shared breathtaking photos of the planet Neptune and its rings captured by JWST.
  • JWST aims to study the birth of certain primitive galaxies and establish major milestones in astronomy.

The James Webb space telescope, often abbreviated as JWST is a joint venture between NASA, the European Space Agency(ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency(CSA). It is considered to be one of the greatest astrophysics missions to be ever witnessed by the human race.

Launched on 20th December 2021 the Webb telescope has a mirror measuring almost 20 feet to capture the essence of space with absolute accuracy. It is also equipped with a sunshade to block out solar radiation. This shade measures around the size of a whole tennis court.

New images from JWST

NASA recently shared the first few images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope and they are astonishing. The pictures provide an unprecedented view of the rings of Neptune.

It has almost been three decades since astronomers and scientists had such a great and clear view of the rings. The last time this happened was back in 1989 when Voyager 2 flew by and captured some images.

What makes these images all the more fascinating is the fact that the planet is located almost 30 times further than the Sun. It orbits in the very dark area of the outskirts of the Solar system. Owing to the Sun being so far, the planet appears as a block of giant ice although the interiors of the planet are very rich in elements

Interesting facts about JWST

The James Webb Space Telescope also known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) is a space telescope designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy- the reason behind it being able to click such clear pictures of Neptune’s rings.

It is the largest optical telescope in space and owing to its high infrared resolution and sensitivity, objects which are too distant can be viewed clearly. It is NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics and it succeeds the Hubble in this particular role.

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on 25th December 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guinea. The first picture to have been ever published which was taken by the JWST was released on 11 July 2022 via a public press conference.

The program behind the entire construction of this telescope cost a whopping 10 billion dollars. Naturally, due to the high costs and immense amount of monetary investments, the stakes were set very high and the telescope came under a lot of scrutiny from the media and the scientific world as well.

Pros and cons:

Every coin has two sides and this telescope isn’t any exception either. Space observatories did open up a new world of opportunities for astronomers but came with their disadvantages and downsides.

Scientists and astronomers have described The Webb telescope essentially as a giant heat telescope. It detects mainly infrared radiation. Hence, to visualize stars or galaxies in infrared light, the telescope needs to be exceptionally cold, or else it can’t detect anything other than its radiation.

This is where the heat shield equipment comes into action. The shield is made of thin plastic-coated aluminum. It is five layers thick and will fulfill the task of maintaining the telescope at minus 390 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 234 Celsius).

Although the JSWT is designed in a certain manner to fight this disadvantage. It uses a combination of sun shields and radiators along with a mid-infrared instrument which uses an additional cryocooler to

fend off any heat to maintain the cold temperature.

Other goals of JWST

Astronomers are hoping with the launch of the JWST, they will be able to study the very first galaxies of the universe to be formed. Hence, the Webb Telescope has been given the name “The first light machine” in this regard.

Also, scientists are hoping to study other newer, distant galaxies close to the edge of the observable universe. Since space is always expanding, these newer galaxies might also house planets worth exploring. With the Webb telescope, scientists will be able to determine the atmospheric composition of these planets to deem them fit for human habitation as well.

Researchers also aim to study the pattern of birth of various stars in different galaxies, particularly the Milky Way, our home. They also wish to study certain “protogalaxies” formed about 300 million years post the Big Bang. The Webb telescope will also help in the visualization of stars giving birth to new planetary systems.

Disclaimer: This information is covered based on the latest research and development available. However, it may not fully reflect all current aspects of the subject matter.

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