NASA shared a new NASA image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. It is compared side-by-side with the Spitzer Space Telescope’s same cluster of stars. It’s evident how much better Webb’s MIRI camera works.
Webb’s coldest camera is MIRI, the Mid-Infrared Instrument. This test image is part of the Large Magellanic Cloud. It’s a small satellite galaxy in the Milky Way that provides a dense starfield with which Webb can test his performance.
NASA published the image along with a capture by the Spitzer Space Telescope Array Infrared, a retired telescope that provided high-resolution images in the near- and middle-infrared.
NASA states that NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which was launched in 2011, was the fourth and last addition to NASA’s Great Observatory program. Spitzer’s mission was NASA’s first infrared light observatory. It allowed astronomers to observe the universe in this crucial part of the electromagnetic spectrum with unparalleled clarity and sensitivity.
Spitzer was retired and, while it made some amazing observations, along with these Webb test images, it is clear how much more powerful the new telescope’s imaging systems are.
Webb’s primary mirror is larger and has better detectors, which allow it to capture images that are much clearer than Spitzer. This comparison image shows Webb’s MIRI image at 7.7 microns showing interstellar gases in incredible detail. It is far better than Spitzer’s (at 8.8 microns).
“Here you can see the emission of ‘polycyclic aroma hydrocarbons’, molecules of carbon, hydrogen, and other molecules that play an important part in the thermal balance, and chemistry, of interstellar gases,” NASA states. Studies such as those with MIRI, which Webb will be able to start science observations, will provide astronomers with new insights into the origins of stars and protoplanetary system.
Mirror alignment was completed by the James Webb Space Telescope, and it is now capable of capturing sharp, crisp images. Webb performed beyond all expectations. Webb’s mirrors direct fully focused light from space to each instrument and are successfully capturing images with that light.