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More breathtaking cosmic images to be released by the James Webb Telescope

Next pictures will reveal atmosphere of a faraway gas planet, a ‘stellar nursery’ where stars form

US President Joe Biden listens during a briefing from NASA officials about the first images from the Webb Space Telescope, the highest-resolution images of the infrared universe ever captured, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, July 11, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden listens during a briefing from NASA officials about the first images from the Webb Space Telescope, the highest-resolution images of the infrared universe ever captured, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, July 11, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

After unveiling the clearest view yet of the distant cosmos, the James Webb Space Telescope has more to come.

The next wave of images on Tuesday will reveal details about the atmosphere of a faraway gas planet, a “stellar nursery” where stars form, a “quintet” of galaxies locked in a dance of close encounters, and the cloud of gas around a dying star.

They will be published starting 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time (5:30 p.m. Israel time), in an event livestreamed from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, just outside Washington.

Targets include Carina Nebula, a stellar nursery, famous for its towering pillars that include “Mystic Mountain,” a three-light-year-tall cosmic pinnacle captured in an iconic image by Hubble.

Webb has also carried out spectroscopy — an analysis of light that reveals detailed information — on a gas giant planet called WASP-96 b, which was discovered in 2014.

Nearly 1,150 lightyears from Earth, WASP-96 b is about half the mass of Jupiter and zips around its star in just 3.4 days.

On Monday, Webb revealed the clearest image to date of the early universe, going back 13 billion years, NASA said Monday.

The stunning shot, released in a White House briefing by US President Joe Biden, is overflowing with thousands of galaxies and features some of the faintest objects observed.

Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, it shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which acts as a gravitational lens, bending light from more distant galaxies behind it towards the observatory, in a cosmic magnification effect.

This image provided by NASA on July 11, 2022, shows galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI via AP)

Launched in December 2021 from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket, Webb is orbiting the Sun at a distance of a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, in a region of space called the second Lagrange point.

Here, it remains in a fixed position relative to the Earth and Sun, with minimal fuel required for course corrections.

A wonder of engineering, the total project cost is estimated at $10 billion, making it one of the most expensive scientific platforms ever built, comparable to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Webb’s primary mirror is over 21 feet (6.5 meters) wide and is made up of 18 gold-coated mirror segments. Like a camera held in one’s hand, the structure must remain as stable as possible to achieve the best shots.

This March 5, 2020 photo made available by NASA shows the main mirror assembly of the James Webb Space Telescope during testing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California. (Chris Gunn/NASA via AP)

After the first images, astronomers around the globe will get shares of time on the telescope, with projects selected competitively through a process in which applicants and selectors don’t know each other’s identities, to minimize bias.

Thanks to an efficient launch, NASA estimates Webb has enough propellant for a 20-year life, as it works in concert with the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to answer fundamental questions about the cosmos.

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