The first James Webb telescope observations revealed to the world

The first James Webb telescope observations revealed to the world

The revealed images are those of the Carina and Southern Ring nebulae, as well as the Stephan’s Quintet galaxies. The telescope’s first spectroscopy, that of exoplanet WASP-96 b, has also been made public.

Professor René Doyon of the University of Montreal, one of the designers of the two Canadian instruments on board the telescope, attended the presentation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center near Washington.

This is an emotional moment for me and for all Canadian partners. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s a new chapter in the history of astronomy that openssaid the astrophysicist from Quebec who has participated in the James Webb mission for twenty years.

I was surprised to see the quality of the images, although I knew the power of the telescope’s instruments. »

a quote from Rene Doyon

Spectacular cosmic cliffs

Nursery of young stars, NGC 3324, in the Carina Nebula.

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Nursery of young stars, NGC 3324, in the Carina Nebula.


The nursery for young stars NGC 3324, called cosmic cliffsIt is located in the Carina Nebula, about 7,600 light-years from Earth.

This image obtained with the NIRCam near-infrared imager reveals regions of star formation that have never been observed before. It actually shows hundreds of stars that were previously invisible, but also many galaxies in the background.

The southern ring nebula

Comparison showing Webb Telescope observations of the South Ring Nebula in near-infrared, left, and mid-infrared, right.

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Comparison showing the observations, using the Webb telescope, of the South Ring Nebula in the near infrared, on the left, and in the mid-infrared, on the right.

Photo: Space Telescope Science Institute

In this image, the South Ring Nebula appears in the near infrared on the left and in the mid-infrared on the right. A huge expanding cloud of gas can be seen surrounding a binary star system.

This cloud is formed by the remains of a white dwarf star like the Sun after it shed its outer layers and burned all its fuel through nuclear fusion.

The brightest star in both images has not yet shed its outer layers.

It is located about 2000 light years from Earth and its diameter is almost half a light year.

Stephan’s Quintet

Stephan's Quintet mosaic covering about a fifth of the Moon's diameter.

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Stephan’s Quintet mosaic covering about a fifth of the Moon’s diameter.


These five galaxies located about 290 million light years from Earth form the first group of compact galaxies discovered in 1877. In fact, however, only four of these galaxies are in gravitational interaction and form a cosmic dancewhere they move back and forth close to each other repeatedly.

The image of more than 150 million pixels is made up of almost 1,000 different observations. Visual clustering of the five galaxies was performed with the NIRCam near-infrared imager and the MIRI mid-infrared instrument.

The spectrum of WASP-96b

The telescope’s first spectroscopy, that of exoplanet WASP-96 b, has also been made public.

This technique makes it possible to determine the spectrum of a celestial object that contains information about the chemical and molecular elements of its atmosphere. The Canadian instrument NIRISS (Near Infrared Slitless Imager and Spectrograph) has allowed unambiguously the presence of water molecules in the planet’s atmosphere. NIRISS also provided evidence for the presence of clouds and haze in the atmosphere of this gas giant planet located nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth.

Webb's NIRISS light curve shows the variation in brightness of the WASP-96 system as the planet transits.

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Webb’s NIRISS light curve shows the variation in brightness of the WASP-96 planetary system as the planet transits.


WASP-96 b was discovered in 2014. It orbits its star in 3.4 days. Its mass is about half that of Jupiter.

in preview

The first image, the deepest taken of the Universe to date, was presented this Monday by US President Joe Biden.

Webb's first deep field.

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Webb’s first deep field.

Photo: Space Telescope Science Institute

It shows in unparalleled detail galaxies formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, about 13.1 billion years ago.

We hope, in the next few years, to be able to see objects from 13.5 billion years ago. »

a quote from Rene Doyon

This first deep Webb field was obtained using gravitational lensing, which, like a giant cosmic magnifying glass, allows one to see behind the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 and magnify the galaxies it contains.

The cluster appears as it was 4.6 billion years ago, but the lens allows thousands of much older galaxies to be seen behind it, including fainter celestial objects than have ever been observed.

In the years to come, astrophysicists will analyze this image to better understand its mass, age, and composition.

The size of this image is roughly equivalent to observing a grain of sand held at arm’s length.

Science mission begins

The James Webb Telescope was launched on December 25 from French Guiana. It is capable of looking further into the Universe than all other telescopes thanks to its huge main mirror and its four instruments that perceive infrared signals, allowing it to pass through dust clouds.

It arrived at its workplace 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in January and its scientific structures and instruments are now deployed, calibrated and tested.

The publication of these results marks the transition between the start-up phase of the telescope and the beginning of its scientific mission.

For the first five months of the mission, James Webb’s instruments will be used exclusively by teams associated with the initial thirteen observing programs that were selected following a competition based on their scientific interest in astronomical research.

Several Canadian and Quebec scientists participate in these programs.

We return to these impressive images captured by the James Webb telescope with André Grandchamps, astrophysicist at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium.

canadian contribution

Canada provides two of the four mission-critical Webb instruments: NIRISS (for Near-Infrared Spectrograph and Imager) and FGS (Precision Guidance Sensor).

NIRISS compiled some of the data that was shared at the press conference.

NIRISS has specialized imaging capabilities to study the atmospheres of exoplanets and very distant galaxies.says Nathalie Ouellette, scientist in charge of communications for James Webb in Canada and coordinator of the Institute for Exoplanet Research (iREx).

As for the FGS, its work is also at the center of the announcements and all those that will follow, since it is the guide detector that allows the telescope to point an object and make observations with stability and precision.

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