President Joe Biden got in on today’s celebration of the first full-color image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a $10 billion observatory that’s been decades in the making. But the star of the show was the image itself, billed as the deepest and sharpest infrared view of the universe to date.
The picture shows a patch of sky where the gravitational effect of a massive galaxy cluster in the foreground, known as SMACS 0723, focuses the light rays emanating from far more distant galaxies in the background.
“This telescope embodies how America leads the world, not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Biden said during today’s White House ceremony. “These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things, and remind the American people — especially our children — that there’s nothing beyond our capacity.”
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson noted that the light from some of the galaxies shown in Webb’s First Deep Field “has been traveling for over 13 billion years.”
And that’s just the start: Astronomers say future images from the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, are likely to exceed the distance record set today, and expand other space frontiers as well.