Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2023 July 15
Explanation: This stunning infrared image was released one year ago as the James Webb Space Telescope began its exploration of the cosmos. The view of the early Universe toward the southern constellation Volans was achieved in 12.5 hours of exposure with Webb's NIRCam instrument. Of course the stars with six spikes are well within our own Milky Way. Their diffraction pattern is characteristic of Webb's 18 hexagonal mirror segments operating together as a single 6.5 meter diameter primary mirror. The thousands of galaxies flooding the field of view are members of the distant galaxy cluster SMACS0723-73, some 4.6 billion light-years away. Luminous arcs that seem to infest the deep field are even more distant galaxies though. Their images are distorted and magnified by the dark matter dominated mass of the galaxy cluster, an effect known as gravitational lensing. Analyzing light from two separate arcs below the bright spiky star, Webb's NIRISS instrument indicates the arcs are both images of the same background galaxy. And that galaxy's light took about 9.5 billion years to reach the James Webb Space Telescope.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
NASA Science Activation
& Michigan Tech. U.