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President Biden to unveil first full-color image from James Webb Space Telescope today

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Last month, NASA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope’s first full-color images would be released on July 12. However, NASA has announced today that President Biden will unveil the first full-color photo today at 5 p.m. EDT.

This exciting surprise news follows NASA’s announcement last week of Webb’s first cosmic targets. The full suite of groundbreaking photos will be shared tomorrow, July 12, at 10:30 a.m. EDT and the subjects include the Carina Nebula, WASP-96 b (spectrum), Southern Ring Nebula, Stephan’s Quintet and SMACS 0723. The subjects include nebulae, a planet, and galaxy groups.

The release of the image later today and the other photos tomorrow mark the beginning of Webb’s scientific operations. We don’t know which of the first targets will be revealed by President Biden today. You can follow the live coverage on NASA TV and NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy is one of a small group of people who have seen the images already. Melroy said, ‘What I have seen moved me, as a scientist, as an engineer, and as a human being.’

Tomorrow’s coverage begins at 9:45 a.m. EDT with remarks by NASA and members of the JWST team. You can view the coverage on NASA TV and YouTube.

Klaus Pontoppidan, JWST project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore said, ‘We will have a package that will consist of a number of full-color images. Each of them will reveal different aspects of the infrared Universe in unprecedented detail and sensitivity.’

One of the images, perhaps even the one unveiled today, will be the deepest image of the universe ever captured, besting the Webb test shot we saw last week. ‘Just think about that,’ NASA Administrator Bill Nelson remarked. ‘This is farther than humanity has ever looked before. And we’re only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do.’

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File photo of the primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope from March 2020, following a deployment test. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has made some amazing observations and discoveries, Webb can see further and in longer wavelengths with better resolution. ‘In comparison to Hubble, Webb does go deeper and certainly sharper in the infrared, especially the longer wavelengths like mid-infrared, bringing the universe into high definition,’ said Jonathan Gardner, Webb deputy senior project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.

One of Webb’s first targets, WASP-96b, is an exoplanet and will be the subject of Webb’s first exoplanet spectrum. Looking at exoplanets, of which we know of over 4,000, is an important part of Webb’s mission. With its expanded spectrum imaging, Webb can investigate the atmospheres of exoplanets and look for signatures of water, carbon dioxide and other signatures of potential life.

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