The powerful James Webb space telescope reveals its first images: is life hiding somewhere in the Universe?

the necessity
This Tuesday, July 12, NASA will unveil the first images of the new James Webb Space Telescope. This is a remarkable step forward for the scientific world, which has finally seen the first results of many years of work. The observations quickly move toward a small star system: TRAPPIST-1 to, perhaps, consider the discovery of life in the Universe.

Mao na! The first images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) arrive this Tuesday, July 12. The images will surprise enthusiasts because their accuracy is revolutionary. This is an event that astronomers around the world have been anticipating for many years.

What were these first images provided by the famous heir to the Hubble telescope? A galaxy? A cloud of cosmic dust? Distant planets? The target has not yet been revealed by NASA and the stakes are on the researchers.

James Webb’s first shot probably won’t show anything new, but it will show the power of the telescope. It has a large mirror 6 meters in diameter, of which its older brother Hubble is only 2.4 meters. The aim is to show the most bizarre images possible because according to Jérémy Leconte, researcher at the University of Bordeaux “NASA has invested a lot of money in this project, most of the public should be there too”.

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A long job

JWST was launched into space on December 25 by the Arianne 5 rocket from the Kourou space center in French Guiana. The telescope then headed to an observation point 1.5 million kilometers from the ground, it reached on January 24. A particularly successful trip, which would allow James Webb to remain under observation for 20 years instead. in the five years first announced.

The James Webb Telescope observes the infrared domain thanks to very powerful cameras, and directly from space. He would then be able to return to the past of the Universe, shortly after the Big Bang, to see the first galaxies formed.

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James Webb in search of life

A small part of the sky is particularly interested in the new telescope. In the constellation of Aquarius is a red dwarf named TRAPPIST-1 that orbits seven exoplanets (planets that do not orbit the sun). “This system has a particularity very close to us, only 40 light years away, which at the size of the galaxy is very small” explained Michael Gillon, a researcher at the University of Liège who, with his team, discovered TRAPPIST- 1 seven years ago.

Three to four planets in this system are in the “habitable star zone” which means that water in a liquid state is likely to thrive. “This system has established itself as the ultimate target for James Webb, in terms of research on exoplanets, it is even the primary target” added the astrophysicist. In fact, 25% of JWST’s time is dedicated to studying exoplanets and 11% of the time is allocated for TRAPPIST-1.

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The main mission of the James Webb telescope is to analyze the presence or absence of an atmosphere on the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system. “We hope that by the end of the first cycle of observations (from now until the end of 2023) we will have the first answers to our questions” the scientist determined. The presence of an atmosphere is essential for life to flourish on a planet. If one or more planets have an atmosphere, JWST will analyze their composition.

The results aren’t there yet, but the scientific world is shaking from this huge leap forward and the hope of answering some of humanity’s biggest questions is in the images and data provided by this new telescope.

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