Incredibly Sharp Webb Space Telescope Test Images Hint at New Possibilities for Science
As seen in a previous engineering photograph showing the observatory's full field of view, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is aligned across all four of its science instruments
Now let's look at the same image again, this time focusing on Webb's coldest device, the Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI.
Part of the Large Magellanic Cloud is visible in the MIRI test image (at 7.7 microns) (LMC)
This small Milky Way satellite galaxy, roughly 160,000 light-years away, offers a dense star field to put Webb to the test.
A MIRI image is compared to a previous image of the same subject taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope's Infrared Array Camera (at 8.0 microns)
One of NASA's Great Observatories, the Spitzer telescope, was the first to give high-resolution photographs of the near- and mid-infrared universe.
Webb's substantially larger primary mirror and upgraded detectors will allow us to observe the infrared sky in more detail, allowing us to make even more discoveries.
Webb's MIRI image, for example, depicts interstellar gas in remarkable depth
The emission from "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons," or carbon and hydrogen molecules that play a key role in the thermal balance and chemistry of interstellar gas, may be seen here
When Webb is ready to undertake science observations, research like this with MIRI will aid astronomers in learning more about the formation of stars and protoplanetary systems.
Meanwhile, the Webb crew is building up and testing Webb's instruments in preparation for science observations this summer.
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