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NASA to release never-seen-before image of the universe

Scientists are soon going to publish an image of the universe that has never been seen before, displaying some of the universe’s oldest stars and galaxies.

On July 12, at 8 PM (India time), NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland will host a live broadcast of the photos and scientific data. Live coverage is available to the public via NASA TV and the organisation’s website.

The image is one of 10 to 20 that will be released on July 12 by the James Webb Space Telescope, the most important observatory in the sky, according to a news conference held by NASA on June 29. The new images, according to the few scientists who have seen a sneak preview, have caused profound existential experiences and brought some of them to tears.

“It’s an emotional moment when you see nature suddenly releasing some of its secrets,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science missions. “It’s not an image. It’s a new worldview.”

On Christmas morning almost six months ago, the telescope was launched from Earth and is currently orbiting the sun at a distance of about 900,000 miles. The telescope is expected to operate for a very long period, according to NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy, a former astronaut. It has enough fuel on board to support study for the next 20 years.

The infrared telescope’s unparalleled sharpness and clarity have already been demonstrated in test images taken during telescope alignment. However, the next photographs will be the first in full colour and will also highlight Webb’s scientific abilities.

This complicated device has four pieces of scientific equipment, so taking images with it is very different from simply pointing a smartphone at the sky and pressing a button. A final image only appears after several weeks of processing mountains of data.

“When you get the data down, they don’t look anything like a beautiful colour image. They don’t hardly look like anything at all,” said astronomer Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute. “It’s only when you know, as an expert, what to look for that you can appreciate them.”

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