James Webb Space Telescope, NASA announces arrival date of first images

We knew that summer would be propitious but there was still no official date for the James Webb Space Telescope to be fully operational, at least until today. And so, after a few months of completing the delicate alignment of the optics and the preparation of the scientific instruments, interspersed with the first promising tests thanks to which we tested the potential of the new telescope, we can finally mark an X on the calendar.

The first images will be presented to the world on 12 July and the spectrometric data collected by James Webb, the result of a work of over 6 months only in space, but of years if we consider the design, development and planning before launch.

The date will therefore coincide with the official start of scientific operations, the calendar of which will be decided by the three partners who kicked off the massive project, namely NASA (US Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Space Agency). Canadian). But the real question that everyone is asking is the following: what will we see concretely next 12 July?

All astronomy enthusiasts jumped in their chairs a little less than a month ago when the first image of the Large Magellanic Cloud obtained with the MIRI infrared instrument and compared with that obtained previously by the Spitzer telescope was shared (you can see it above in a side-by-side comparison). You don’t need to be an expert to steal the incredible sharpness and unprecedented detail. But it was always a test image, so it’s really hard to predict exactly what the first photos will look like.

What we know for sure is that, in addition to the images, the James Webb will also collect spectroscopic data, essential for a correct reading by the scientific teams involved in their analysis. Another thing we know is that the first package of shared images will already be part of the first scientific mission and will highlight the main themes to be explored in the coming months. The James Webb was born to study the early universe and its evolution, how galaxies have changed over time and in general, to learn more about the evolution of the visible and invisible cosmos. The good thing is that all the data collected, both in the preparation phase and subsequent ones, will be made public and available to everyone, a bit like other missions currently underway.

There is great anticipation for the future discoveries that the James Webb could allow, as other similar means in the past have really revolutionized our knowledge of the cosmos. An example? Before 1990, when Hubble was launched, dark energy was completely unknown and now represents one of the most fascinating areas in astrophysics! The James Webb, as repeatedly reiterated, is much more powerful than its illustrious predecessor, therefore we cannot exclude that in the next decade it will allow us to revolutionize our knowledge in the astronomical field. We just have to mark the date on the calendar, as July 12 is really around the corner.