The first scientific images from the James Webb Space Telescope are expected in mid-July

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Washington (AFP) – The first scientific and color images from the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful ever put into orbit, were due to be unveiled in mid-July, an official in charge of the program announced on Monday.

These images, which promise to be spectacular, are awaited by researchers around the world and must demonstrate the immense skill of James Webb.

The exact release date of this real surprise pack will be determined later and its contents will be kept secret until the last moment.

Images taken by the four onboard science instruments will be released, promised Klaus Pontoppidan, director of James Webb’s science program at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the telescope from Baltimore.

Another indication: “All themes” of the telescope’s scientific observations will be represented, he said at a press conference. Namely: the very young universe, the life cycle of stars or exoplanets…

The telescope operates in the infrared range, so will observe “colors not in the visible spectrum” to the eye, explains Mr. Pontoppidan. So before publication, it is necessary to “translate the infrared colors into visible colors that humans can see”.

By the end of April, James Webb had completed the alignment phase between his huge primary mirror and his four science instruments.

Images taken with the telescope have previously been published, but they were of huge star fields used to calibrate the instruments, rather than astrophysical targets of scientific interest.

For the images, which will be unveiled in mid-July, a committee has been assembled to determine a long list of potential targets, ranked by priority. Which ones are ultimately targeted will depend on when the telescope can observe them, Pontoppidan said.

James Webb, a $10 billion international project, was successfully launched at Christmas and is now 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

After the publication of these first scientific images, the first official observing cycle will begin. In particular, James Webb must enable the observation of the first galaxies that formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

The telescope mission should last at least 5 years, but the telescope has enough fuel to work for more than 20 years.

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