Joe Biden shares the deepest infrared image of the universe ever taken

The president on Monday had the honor of sharing the first publicly released image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

US President Joe Biden on Monday shared the first image to be publicly released by the James Webb Space Telescope mission, the deepest infrared image of the universe anyone has ever seen.

Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

President Joe Biden on Monday had the honor of sharing the first publicly released image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope -- the deepest infrared image of the universe anyone has ever seen, from the most powerful telescope anyone has ever made. 

Biden said the telescope and its mission "symbolizes the relentless spirit of American ingenuity." 

It serves to "remind the world that America can do big things," he said. "America is defined by one single word: Possibilities."

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The image shows galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. 

Taken by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), it is a composite made from images at different wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours -- achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope's deepest fields.

This image is among the telescope's first full-color images. The full suite will be released Tuesday, beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET, during a live NASA TV broadcast.

The JWST was launched in December from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, as part of an international program comprising NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. Located one million miles away from Earth, the telescope was developed to study the evolution of our solar system.

The photos that will be released were chosen for their spectacular color imagery, NASA said, as well as to demonstrate the breadth of science that the JWST is supporting. 

On Monday, NASA described what the first images show. In addition to galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, they show:

  • Carina Nebula. The Carina Nebula is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, located approximately 7,600 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. Nebulae are stellar nurseries where stars form. The Carina Nebula is home to many massive stars several times larger than the Sun.

  • WASP-96 b (spectrum). WASP-96 b is a giant planet outside our solar system, composed mainly of gas. The planet, located nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth, orbits its star every 3.4 days. It has about half the mass of Jupiter, and its discovery was announced in 2014.

  • Southern Ring Nebula. The Southern Ring, or "Eight-Burst" nebula, is a planetary nebula – an expanding cloud of gas, surrounding a dying star. It is nearly half a light-year in diameter and is located approximately 2,000 light-years away from Earth.

  • Stephan's Quintet: About 290 million light-years away, Stephan's Quintet is located in the constellation Pegasus. It is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877. Four of the five galaxies within the quintet are locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters.

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