On Monday, NASA unveiled one of the first images taken by the agency’s powerful James Webb Space Telescope, the mightiest instrument ever sent into outer space. Scientists have hailed the mission as one that could transform astrophysics and our understanding of the universe.
Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. will bring a new cache of images, which will be livestreamed on NASA’s YouTube channel.
Monday night, NASA released its first image showing galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. The telescope is designed to peer back so far that scientists can get a glimpse of the dawn of the universe about 13.7 billion years ago and zoom in on closer cosmic objects, even our own solar system, with sharper focus.
Museums and libraries around the Tampa Bay area have planned special events to join NASA in celebrating the release. Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry, the Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Petersburg and local libraries have special displays and space activities planned at 10:30 a.m. to show the telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data, which is detailed information astronomers can read in light as three-dimensional “data cubes.”
“Released one by one, these first images from the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope will demonstrate Webb at its full power as it begins its mission to unfold the infrared universe,” NASA said in a news release.
Webb is a $10-billion space telescope — the largest ever built. It holds mirrors spanning more than 21 feet across made out of gold-plated beryllium that are designed to gather infrared light. The space agency expects that it will be able to peer into the deepest recesses of the universe to show the first stars and galaxies that formed just after the Big Bang.
It took more than six months of travel and calibration to prepare the telescope for its moment in the spotlight.
Watch and learn
NASA: The space agency is making images available on social media as well as on the agency’s website at nasa.gov/webbfirstimages starting at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
MOSI: There will be hands-on astronomy activities for all ages and Webb’s first images on display on Saturday. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $12.95, $10.95 seniors, $7.95 age 3-12. 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. 813-987-6000. mosi.org.
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Great Explorations Children’s Museum: The hands-on museum in St. Petersburg will have a Space Exploration Day on Aug. 5, coordinated by NASA. There will be a viewing of James Webb Telescope’s first images, space activities, special programs and a pop-up planetarium dome where families can stargaze at the night sky within the museum. 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. $12, $11 age 44 and up, $15 age 1-17. 1925 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. 727-821-8992. greatex.org.
West Community Library at St. Petersburg College: There will be a public lecture held at 6 p.m. Tuesday with the first official images released earlier that day from the James Webb Space Telescope. There will be a talk in both English and Spanish with information about the telescope. They will also have paper models of the telescope for anyone who would like to build one. 6700 Eighth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. 727-341-7199.
Riverview Public Library: The library will have a display of Webb’s first full-color images and an activity station set up this week, Tuesday through Friday at 9951 Balm Riverview Road, Riverview. 813-273-3652.