On July 12th, 2022, NASA and its partner agencies released the very first James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) observations to the general public. These included images and spectra gotten after Webbs commissioning stage, which included the most-detailed views of galaxy clusters, gravitational lenses, nebulae, combining galaxies, and spectra from an exoplanets environment. Less than a month after their release, a paper titled “The JWST Early Release Observations” has been offered that explains the observations and the clinical process that entered into making them.
The EROs is a set of public outreach items created to mark completion of JWSTs commissioning and the beginning of science operations. These items were selected by the ERO Selection Committee, a worldwide body formed in 2016 made up of members from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA), with assistance provided by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). The paper that explains the ERO was authored by scientists from the STScI, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), and the Department of Physics & & Astronomy at John Hopkins University.
As noted in a previous short article (concurrent with the release), the very first observations from the Webb objective consisted of a deep field image of the SMACS J0723.3-7327 galaxy cluster and distant lensed galaxies, the combining galaxy group referred to as Stephans Quintet, the Carina Nebula (NGC 3324), the Southern Ring planetary nebula (NGC 3132), and spectra gotten from the transiting hot Jupiter WASP 96b. The ERO explains how these targets were picked, which of Webbs instruments were utilized to study them, and what they exposed.
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In the very first section of the paper, the authors state how these targets were picked in 2017 by the ERO Committee based upon solicitations from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and the JWST Science Working Group (SWG). From this, the ERO Committee selected a superset of targets based on existing data, particularly color images taken by the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. These, in turn, were evaluated based upon their significance to the JWSTs 4 scientific themes: observations of the first galaxies that formed during the “Cosmic Dawn” period, how these galaxies have given that evolved, the lifecycle of stars, and extrasolar worlds.
The final targets were chosen from these, with additional factor to consider for the major observation modes of JWSTs four science instruments. These instruments comprise the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and consist of:
The Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light (left) and mid-infrared light (right) from NASAs James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/ STScI.
As noted, one of the JWSTs primary objectives is the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, which will assist astronomers position tighter restraints on their habitability. The purpose of these observations was to get a transmission spectrum of the planet that would investigate the existence of water, which was previously identified by Hubble.
Throughout a transit that took location on June 21st, 2022, the JWST carried out Single Object Slitless Spectroscopy (SOSS) observations using its NIRISS instruments. As expected, the JWSTs observations revealed a significant presence of water vapor in this exoplanets atmosphere.
Deep Field Galaxy cluster SMACS J0723.3-7327, imaged by Hubble (left) and the JWST (right). Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/ STScI.
According to the paper, the objective of these observations was to show the capability of JWST to rapidly image high-redshift galaxies (those that are farthest from us) at a depth measuring up to the most delicate images acquired by the Hubble Deep Fields campaign. While Hubble might capture galaxies over 13 billion light-years distant, the enhanced level of sensitivity of the JWST enabled it to see very high-redshifted galaxies and fainter, redder galaxies that consist of substantial dust (which obscures their light). As the authors sum up:.
” The gravitationally lensed arcs both increase the richness of the background field, along with offer a science narrative related to using gravitational lensing to magnify and enhance distant galaxies. The multi-object spectroscopy was meant to demonstrate emission-line signatures of star-forming galaxies, and illustrate to the public how redshifts (look-back time) can be determined to high accuracy by JWST. The NIRCam imaging was also utilized to create a catalog from which the NIRSpec MSA configuration could be constructed, following a workflow similar to that which future science programs would use.”.
This collection of galaxies takes its name from French astronomer Édouard Stephan, who made the very first tape-recorded observation from the Marseille Observatory in 1877. It includes a minimum of 4 specific large galaxies at an average distance of 288.9 million light-years (which seem actively combining). The 5th galaxy (NGC7320) is not communicating and is instead in an apparent possibility alignment with the group– where they look like they are combining relative to the observer however are actually very far apart. This galaxy group was viewed numerous times in between June 11th and 20th using several instruments– including NIRCam, MIRI, and NIRSpec.
According to the paper, these observations intended to illustrate the energetic interactions that take place in a compact group of combining galaxies. In specific, mid-infrared observations showed how Stephans Quintet is characterized by massive shock waves at the point where 2 of the galaxies (NGC 7318 and NGC 7319) are interfacing.
The “Cosmic Cliffs” function in the Carina Nebula, as imaged by Hubble (leading) and the JWST (bottom). Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/ STScI.
This nebula was selected to show the JWSTs ability to observe the full lifecycle of stars. To this end, the JWST observed the nebula two times on June 3rd utilizing its NIRCam and again on June 12th utilizing its MIRI instrument.
These images offered a much-improved look at the Nebula (compared to a previous image acquired by Spitzer). In the NIRCam image, the main-sequence star appears brighter, while the white dwarf is partially concealed by a diffraction spike.
, and H2 rovibrational and rotational lines,” they wrote. “The intrinsic morphology of the nebula is likely bipolar, but viewed close to pole-on.”.
Stephans Quintet, as imaged by Hubble (left) and the JWST (right). Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/ STScI.
Next up, theres the image of the “Cosmic Cliffs,” an ionized bubble formed by hot young stars near the easter edge of the star-forming Carina Nebula (NGC 3324). Located approximately 8,500 light-years from Earth in the Carina– Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, this feature is one of a number of that ended up being iconic thanks to previous images obtained by Hubble. Once again, the JWST supplied pictures of superior quality thanks to its innovative IR suite, which supplied a more comprehensive view of this star-forming region.
The JWST concentrated on the eastern edge since it was anticipated to reveal the sharpest ionization boundary and the best brightness and color contrast (based on images previously offered by Spitzer). Webb observed this location two times on June 3rd with its NIRCam and 3 times on June 11th with its MIRI video camera. The combined image catches a landscape view of the bubble in near- and mid-infrared, highlighting the contrast between the ionized (hotter) and molecular (cooler) gas. It also exposed previously-unseen newborn stars and the interaction between solar wind and gas clouds.
All of the information concerning the ERO and the procedure of bringing the first JWST images to the general public can be discovered here. When all the needed calibration files are available, these information sets will be provided as top-level science products (HLSPs) through the STScIs Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST). The ERO and subsequent images have actually already resulted in numerous breakthroughs, consisting of more comprehensive views of M74, the Cartwheel Galaxy, the most distant galaxy ever observed, greatly-improved mass estimations of early galaxies, and new insight into bodies in the Solar System.
Who understands what clinical breakthroughs and inspiring images Webb will provide tomorrow, the day after that, and so on? Many scientists, person scientists, and routine individuals around the world are all eager to discover!
Further Reading: arXiv.
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Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez.
They likewise explain how scaling was attained utilizing fitsliberator12 and PixInsight software application and how noise suppression and artifact removal were accomplished through PixelClip.js image-processing algorithms. They likewise used “chromatic ordering”– where color was assigned to represent different wavelengths of light– to achieve a color balance that offered the “finest trade-off in between science and aesthetic appeals.” In other words, this means that much shorter wavelengths were prescribed a bluer color while longer wavelengths were represented in a redder color. They likewise utilized star cores in the images to perform “white balancing,” a strategy that makes sure the colors represent the proper wavelength.
A transmission spectrum based on information acquired by Webbs Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS). Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.
Data Processing and Visuals.
The authors likewise detail how the ERO observations were processed and calibrated, depending on the instrument and image. All observations were processed utilizing the JWST Pipline5– a Python-based library utilized to share Webbs observations with the scientific, academic, and resident researcher communities. As the authors explain, this pipeline includes 3 phases, “starting from the raw uncalibrated files, through to totally adjusted exposures, and ending with complete combined mosaics.”.
A couple of steps were customized to improve the quality of the resulting data and images products. In the case of stars recorded in Webbs image field, Gaias Third Data Release (DR3) was utilized to correct for uncertainties caused by star brochure mistakes and roll unpredictability.
For some images, a small number of additional processing actions had actually to be used to enhance the quality of the last mosaics, like fixing for critical background sound and subtracting artifacts brought on by very bright sources. The process of producing color images from the JWST data resembled that used with other observatories (like Hubble). But as the paper notes, the abilities of the JWST provided a larger range of color choices due to its broad IR imaging capabilities:.
” An essential goal was to establish a striking translation of infrared colors to the visible color space, using chemical and physical tracers not readily available in the Hubble range. While previous infrared telescopes, such as Spitzer, made great strides in this direction, JWST uses lots of more filters, resulting in a much greater number of potential color combinations. The last color images represent one alternative out of many possible, for a large range of various types of object, from the deep universe, where more dusty or far-off galaxies naturally appear red using a variety of broad-band filters, to a planetary nebula entirely dominated by non-thermal line emission from molecular, atomic, and ionized gas.”.
” Finally, in early 2022, agents from STScIs Office of Public Outreach signed up with the ERO Production Team to contribute competence in graphics style, science writing, and news production,” they write. “The JWST First Images and Spectra were produced by Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) personnel in between June 3 and July 10, 2022, from the first observation to the last delivery to NASA. In total, more than 30 people were associated with the production team, supported by the full commissioning and operations system for the JWST observatory.”
This huge galaxy cluster is situated about 4 billion light-years from Earth within the southern Volans constellation. This galaxy was observed often times by Hubble due to the fact that of how it acts as a strong gravitational lens that amplifies the light of more far-off, high-redshift galaxies in the background. From June 7th to 30th, the JWST carried out wide-field and multi-object slitless spectroscopy using its NIRSpec and NIRISS instruments, which were supported by multi-mode observations of the cluster and the surrounding field with NIRCam and MIRI.
These consisted of images and spectra gotten after Webbs commissioning stage, which consisted of the most-detailed views of galaxy clusters, gravitational lenses, nebulae, combining galaxies, and spectra from an exoplanets atmosphere. These, in turn, were examined based on their relevance to the JWSTs 4 clinical themes: observations of the first galaxies that formed during the “Cosmic Dawn” period, how these galaxies have since progressed, the lifecycle of stars, and extrasolar planets.
According to the paper, the goal of these observations was to show the capability of JWST to rapidly image high-redshift galaxies (those that are farthest from us) at a depth matching the most delicate images obtained by the Hubble Deep Fields project. While Hubble might capture galaxies over 13 billion light-years far-off, the enhanced level of sensitivity of the JWST enabled it to see really high-redshifted galaxies and fainter, redder galaxies that contain considerable dust (which obscures their light). The ERO and subsequent images have actually already led to many advancements, consisting of more comprehensive views of M74, the Cartwheel Galaxy, the most distant galaxy ever observed, greatly-improved mass estimations of early galaxies, and new insight into bodies in the Solar System.