The James Webb Space Telescope is by far the most intricate piece of technology we have ever sent into space. The engineering process for the JWST took nearly 30 years to build with Randy Kimble (who had worked on its predecessor – the Hubble Space Telescope) and had a cost of $10 billion.
The components of the the JWST are as follows:
- Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam): this is the primary imager of the JWST that covers an infrared wavelength from 0.6 to 5 microns. This allows the telescope to detect light from the earliest galaxies and stars, young stars in the Milky Way, and Kuiper Belt objects.
- Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) : this is the instrument used to gather the light collected from the NIRCam into a spectrum. This spectra gathered allows us to know the physical properties like temperature, mass, and chemical composition of deep space objects.
- Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) : this is both a camera and spectrograph that detects light in the “mid-infrared” region of the electromagnetic spectrum in which the wavelengths are longer than our eyes can see. This has a wavelength range of 5 to 28 microns which allows it to see the redshift of distant galaxies and newly forming stars amongst much more!
- Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS): this is the instrument that allows for the JWST to take the beautiful high quality images we see as it sends them to us. It also allows for scientists to further discover things like exoplanets and their transit spectroscopy.
Using all of these instruments, on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, we received JWST’s first full color image of the Carina Nebula (left).
This is so significant because it showed the extreme amount of progress given that this image (right) is of the same nebula but taken from the Hubble Telescope in 2008.
The amount of detail present in the JWST photo compared to the Hubble Telescope catapulted astrophotography light years ahead (HA!) of what it used to be.
The Carina Nebula contains the stellar nursery (that is so cute) NGC 3324 – the region in which new stars are formed. The peaks of this region are nearly 7 light years high, and the types of stars created in these regions are usually O- and B- type stars as they are formed by cosmic recycling. The nebula is about 7,500 light years away and coupled with the superior technology of the JWST, will shed light on how stars are formed and evolution of galactic clouds!