Astronomers poring through images from new space telescope : NPR



As the first James Webb Space Telescope images appeared in New York’s Times Square and everywhere else, scientists got to work diving deep into the data.

Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images


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Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images


As the first James Webb Space Telescope images appeared in New York’s Times Square and everywhere else, scientists got to work diving deep into the data.

Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

Shockingly distant galaxies, clues about alien planets’ atmospheres, and an unexpected weirdness around Jupiter are just some of the scientific treasures uncovered by the James Webb Space Telescope.

The days since the public unveiling of the telescope’s first images have been action-packed for astronomers, who have been engulfed by a whirlwind of possible discoveries as they pore over the $10 billion telescope’s early sightings.

“It’s like a birthday and Christmas and an anniversary and a graduation and Thanksgiving and Hanukkah all wrapped into one for us, and happening just every day,” says Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago.

“It works better than I think almost anyone hoped. It’s really a miracle,” says Rachel Somerville, an astronomer with the Flatiron Institute. “This is like nothing I’ve experienced.”

The few stunning images that got featured at press conferences on July 11 and 12 represent just a fraction of what the telescope has seen since it launched in December and unfolded out in space.

“The initial unveiling was, of course, really exciting. But it wasn’t until two days later that the real work started. That is when the first data became available,” explains Laura Kreidberg, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

“Scientists want the actual data,” agrees Misty Bentz, an astronomer at Georgia State University. “We want to actually go in and pull down the scientific data from which those pretty pictures were made.”


A crowd at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. watched as some of the first images got released on July 12.

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A crowd at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. watched as some of the first images got released on July 12.



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