It’s a look at distant galaxies.
During a White House event on Monday, President Joe Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, unveiled James Webb Space Telescope’s “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date,” according to NASA.
The photo — which Biden called “a new window into the history of our universe” — is of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. Dubbed Webb’s First Deep Field, the image “covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground,” per the release. It also shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.
The tiny sliver of the vast universe shows thousands of galaxies, “including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared.”
The image shows a kaleidoscope of galaxies that can be seen “shining around other galaxies whose light has been bent,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said during the briefing, adding, “The light that you are seeing on one of those little specks has been traveling for over 13 billion years.”
“Today represents an exciting new chapter in the exploration of our universe. From the beginning of history, humans have looked up to the night sky with wonder,” Harris said during the NASA briefing. “And thanks to the dedication of people who have been working for decades in engineering and on scientific marvels, we can look to the sky with new understanding.”
Biden added in a tweet, “The first image from the Webb Space Telescope represents a historic moment for science and technology. For astronomy and space exploration.”
NASA noted that the “combined mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying much more distant galaxies behind it. Webb’s NIRCam has brought those distant galaxies into sharp focus — they have tiny, faint structures that have never been seen before, including star clusters and diffuse features.”
As the $10 billion telescope continues to seek the earliest galaxies, researchers will learn more about galaxies’ ages, histories, composition and masses.
More full-color images and data are expected to be released on Tuesday, with Nelson adding, “This is just the first image. They’re going back about 13.5 billion years. And since we know the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we’re going back almost to the beginning.”
“It is going to be so precise, you’re going to see whether or not planets … are habitable,” he added about the telescope's abilities.
The James Webb Space Telescope, developed by NASA and Northrop Grumman, is the largest telescope ever launched into space and took over 20 years to be assembled. It was launched into space in December 2021.