The James Webb Telescope will deliver the “deepest” image of the universe: NASA

NASA will unveil “the deepest image ever taken of our universe” on July 12, thanks to its new James Webb space telescope, said on Wednesday Bill Nelson, the head of the American agency.

“It’s farther than anything humanity has looked at before,” he told a press conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the center of operations for this engineering gem. $10 billion launched in December and now 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

James Webb is able to look further into the cosmos than any telescope before it thanks to its huge main mirror, and its instruments that perceive infrared signals, which allow it to peer through clouds of dust.

“It will explore solar system objects and the atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, giving us clues as to whether their atmospheres are potentially similar to ours,” Nelson said.

“It may answer some of our questions: Where do we come from? What else is there? Who are we? And of course it will answer questions that we don’t even know not yet.”

James Webb must in particular make it possible to observe the first galaxies, formed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, and exoplanets.

Thanks to an efficient launch by NASA’s partner Arianespace, the telescope could remain operational for 20 years, twice the lifespan originally planned, said Pam Melroy, deputy administrator of the American space agency.

On July 12, NASA intends to make public the first James Webb telescope spectroscopy of a distant planet, an exoplanet.

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Spectroscopy is a tool for knowing the chemical and molecular composition of distant objects, and, in the case of a planet, can help determine its atmosphere, detect the presence of water or analyze its soil.

According to Nestor Espinoza, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, spectroscopies of exoplanets have so far been very limited, compared to what the James Webb telescope is capable of.

“It’s like being in a very dark room and you only have a little pinhole you can look through,” he said of current technology. With this new telescope, “you have opened up a huge window, you can see all the little details”.

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