US President Joe Biden unveiled the first full image transmitted to Earth by the James Webb Space Telescope. The image captures the massive galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. The image shows the cluster of galaxies as it was approximately 4.6 billion years ago.
In the process of observations, a near-infrared camera NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) was used on board the observatory. The image is formed by combining photographs taken at different wavelengths. The total exposure time was 12.5 hours. For comparison, the Hubble telescope takes several weeks or even more than a week to take pictures.
The image shows the so-called gravitational lensing effect in action. Einstein’s theory of relativity predicts that bodies warp the space-time around them, causing light rays to bend. This effect is observed only in very massive objects such as SMACS 0723. As a result, light rays from distant galaxies are deformed and bent, making it possible to study structures that have never been observed.
More colour images from the James Webb observatory will be released soon. Objects captured include the Carina Nebula, exoplanet WASP-96 b, the Southern Ring Nebula, and Stephan’s Quintet.