James Webb Telescope's first image will be the 'deepest image of the universe ever taken'

The JWST over the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image including nearly 10,000 galaxies.
The JWST over the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image including nearly 10,000 galaxies. Photo credit NASAESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team
By , NewsRadio 1080 KRLD

In the increasingly divided society we currently live in, you might wonder, what does anyone truly have in common?

Though we all have differences, there’s one commonality that has prevailed for all of humanity: we are all floating on a rock, flying through outer space at over a million miles an hour.

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For years, humans have ventured away from that shared rock in hopes of learning about the universe and ultimately how it created us.

The scale and sheer size of the universe makes it impossible to truly learn everything, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Here’s what’s happening in outer space this week.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson recently announced that one of James Webb Telescope's first images will be "the deepest image of the universe that has ever been taken."

While initial test images from the telescope have already been released, the first full-color images and spectroscopic data from JWST are set to be released on July 12.

The telescope, which cost over $10 billion, launched in December, 2021, and reached its final position in March, 2022.

Nelson's announcement finally offers some hints as to what we can expect from JWST's first images. The telescope has already far surpassed expected performance. Lee Feinberg, the optical telescope element manager for Webb, even said the first images were "emotional."

"When the first images came down, we were in the mission control center and it was a very emotional moment," Feinberg said. "I'm happy to say that the optical performance of the telescope is absolutely phenomenal. It is really working extremely well."

While we don't yet know the exact objects or region of space Webb will focus on, Nelson hinted that the image will show the "earliest objects ever seen."

"This is farther than humanity has ever looked before," he noted, "and we're only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do."

The anticipated image from JWST may very well surpass the mind-blowing series of deep field images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

In 1994, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Robert Williams, used his allotted 10 percent of Hubble's observation time to observe an essentially uninteresting, 'empty' part of the night sky.

The Hubble Deep Field
The Hubble Deep Field (1995) Photo credit NASA

The data returned from the telescope truly changed our perspective of the Universe forever. The exposures, which were taken over the course of 10 days, captured around 3,000 distant galaxies, each in different stages of development.

Most of the galaxies were four billion times fainter than the human eye can see, and had never been observed before by any telescope.

This excited astronomers around the world as we were looking back in time at what could potentially be some of the first galaxies ever formed.

When observing distant objects in space, we are essentially looking back in time. This is due to the speed of light. Although we perceive it as relatively fast, the speed of light still takes tremendous amounts of time to travel across the vastness of outer space.

Even the light from our own Sun takes eight minutes to reach the Earth, meaning you're also 'looking back in time' just looking at our own star.

Essentially, the farther away the object, the younger it appears to telescopes from Earth.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (2004) Photo credit NASA

Hubble Deep Field's successor, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image, was even more mind-boggling.

In 2004, a million-second-long exposure was captured by Hubble. The image contained a whopping 10,000 galaxies. Each of those galaxies contains an estimated 100 billion stars each.

This historic image is the deepest portrait of the universe ever taken, and includes the first galaxies that formed following the Big Bang in a period known as the "dark ages."

The image is especially astonishing considering the size of the sky it takes up. The field of view is less than 1% of the area covered by the full moon.

For some perspective, imagine you hold up the tip of a pen in the night sky an arm's length away from your body. That's how big the patch of sky used to capture the Ultra Deep Field image containing thousands of galaxies is. It would take 12,913,983 deep field images to fill up the entire sphere of our sky!

Webb's photos are anticipated to be even more fascinating, capturing some of the earliest galaxies in the entire universe.

NASA's first images from the observatory will be released at 10:30 a.m. ET (14:30 GMT) on NASA's website and social media channels.

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