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A galaxy cluster as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago

Earlier today at the White House, President Joe Biden unveiled the first image to ever be released from the James Webb Telescope. The stunning photograph, known as Webb’s First Deep Field, reveals thousands of galaxies in the cluster SMACS 0723. Incredibly, the image shows this galaxy cluster as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.

According to NASA, the patch of sky covered in the image is so small that it is comparable to the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.

A report from NASA notes that Webb’s sharp near-infrared view brought out faint structures in extremely distant galaxies, offering the most detailed view of the early universe to date

“NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail.”

“Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time,” says NASA.

The photograph is a composite of images captured at various wavelengths by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). 

“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,” says NASA.

“Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the galaxies’ masses, ages, histories, and compositions, as Webb seeks the earliest galaxies in the universe.”

This amazing composite photo is among the telescope’s first-full color images. NASA and its partners will release the full series of Webb’s first full-color images and data on Tuesday, July 12 during a live NASA TV broadcast.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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