President Joe Biden today offered a sneak preview of the capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope, pre-empting NASA’s release tomorrow of the giant telescope’s first images and spectra. In a briefing from the White House, Biden revealed what the agency says is the deepest and sharpest infrared image ever produced: thousands of galaxies shining billions of light-years away. Showing the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it was 4.6 billion years ago, the image also contains other, more distant galaxies, stretched and magnified into crescent shapes by the cluster’s gravitational field as if by a giant lens. The image took Webb’s near infrared camera 12.5 hours to produce and is a harbinger of the extremely deep images Webb is expected to produce in the coming months as it searches for the universe’s very first galaxies. “Today is a historic day,” Biden said. According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson: “We’re going to be able to answer questions where we don’t even know what the question is yet.”



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