NASA’s new space telescope is about to be tested, with scientific observations due to begin in July, astronomers said on Monday.
The James Webb Space Telescope has returned the latest test images of a nearby satellite galaxy, and the results are stunning compared to images taken by NASA’s old infrared observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Each of the new telescope’s 18 mirror segments is larger than Spitzer’s.
“It’s only when you actually see the kind of picture it provides that you really go inside and go, ‘Wow!'” said Marcia Rieke, of the University of Arizona, lead scientist Webb’s near-infrared camera. “Just think what we’re going to learn.”
WATCH | Canadian researchers await images from the James Webb Telescope:
Launched last December, the US$10 billion (C$13 billion) Webb is the largest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever sent into space. It will look for the light emitted by the first stars and galaxies nearly 14 billion years ago, and keep an eye out for any signs of life.
Scientists are keeping the identity of Webb’s first official target secret.
Located 1.6 million kilometers from Earth, Webb is considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.