US President Joe Biden revealed on Monday the first photo from the James Webb Space Telescope, providing a window into some of the deepest corners of the universe previously unseen by humanity.
The infrared image depicts thousands of previously unseen galaxies, some of which appear to be spinning as if viewed in slow motion as other stars shine radiantly against the pitch-black of space. The image of what is known as galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is the first of a collection set to be published by NASA on Tuesday.
It's here–the deepest, sharpest infrared view of the universe to date: Webb's First Deep Field.— NASA (@NASA) July 11, 2022
Previewed by @POTUS on July 11, it shows galaxies once invisible to us. The full set of @NASAWebb's first full-color images & data will be revealed July 12: https://t.co/63zxpNDi4I pic.twitter.com/zAr7YoFZ8C
Speaking at the White House alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and NASA administrator Bill Nelson, Biden hailed the photos as representing "a historic moment for science and technology, for astronomy, and space exploration for America and all of humanity."
"This telescope embodies how America leads the world not by the example of our power, but the power of our example," said Biden.
"These images are gonna remind the world that America can do big things, and remind the American people, especially our children, that there's nothing beyond our capacity, nothing beyond our capacity. We can see possibilities no one has ever seen before. We can go places no one has ever gone before," he added.
The US launched the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, a joint project that included the Canadian and European space agencies, in December. The sophisticated 6.2-ton space observatory is expected to explore the deepest reaches of the cosmos for at least five years, sending never-before-seen images of the universe back to Earth.
Some of the galaxies depicted in the image previewed by Biden are some 13 billion light years away from the telescope, meaning that parts of the photo depict galaxies roughly 13 billion years old. That dates back close to the period known as the Big Bang, when the universe is thought to have begun.
"We're looking back more than 13 billion years," said Nelson, the NASA chief. "By the way, we're going back further, because this is just the first image. They're going back about 13 and a half billion years. And since we know the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we're going back almost to the beginning."
NASA will publish additional images Tuesday morning.
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