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Peeping into infinity: Humanity marvels at James Webb telescope shots

Humanity was taken 13 billion years back in time on Monday to the earliest days of the universe, thanks to the first full-colour image from NASA’s USD 10 billion James Webb telescope – an image truly trumping the expressive capabilities of the human language.

Presented at the White House in the presence of President Joe Biden ​​alongside Vice-President Kamala Harris and NASA officials, it is the most detailed snapshot of our universe to date. Still, what millions worldwide could see in the kaleidoscopic picture of swirling, bent, streaky and gravity-warped galaxies, is just a fraction of the observable universe. The image focuses on the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.

But the oldest light from the objects, eternalised by the telescope’s infrared imaging, dates back roughly 13 billion years ago to the early days of the universe.

“That light that you’re seeing on one of those little specks has been travelling for over 13 billion years,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

If you held a grain of sand on the tip of your finger at arm’s length, that is the part of the universe that you’re seeing. Just one little speck of the universe,” Mr Nelson stressed.

The infrared image, dubbed “Webb’s First Deep Field,” that put humanity in a state of breathless marvel was taken over a period of 12.5 hours – all of this just a year after the marvel of human technology was launched into space. On top of this, Webb single handedly outstripped its predecessor – the Hubble Space Telescope.

HUBBLE vs JWST: Here's the difference. Welcome to a new era of astronomy.

— Ian Lauer (@ianlauerastro) July 11, 2022

Not an image but a new worldview

The image makes history and will be forever remembered as a breakthrough.

It’s not an image. It’s a new world view,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, adding that it would likely represent a turning point in humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.

After the image was revealed, President Biden said that “these images are going to remind the world that America can do big things, and to remind the American people, especially our children, that there’s nothing beyond our capacity.”

But “Webb’s First Deep Field”, as Mr Nelson put it, was only the first image of many to come.

According to sources more images are to be revealed on Tuesday.

“And we’re going back further – this is just the first image … we know the universe is 13.8 billion years old we’re going almost back to the beginning,” Mr Nelson said, adding that the prospective images “are going to be so precise you’re going to see whether or not planets – because of the chemical composition … are habitable.”

It offered humankind a trailblazing perspective on the mind-boggling size of the universe and its history, taking the viewer on a trip back in time to where the baby universe wept after that initial cry known as the Big Bang.

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