Jul 12, 2022

First Images From the James Webb Space Telescope Transcript

First Images From the James Webb Space Telescope Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsJames Webb Space TelescopeFirst Images From the James Webb Space Telescope Transcript

The mission team reveals the long-awaited first images from the James Webb Space Telescope. Read the transcript here.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.

Michelle Thaller: (03:19)
Sky Watchers, this is it. This is the day we get the first science images back from the James Webb Space Telescope and you’ve got a front row seat to the cosmos. I’m Michelle Thaller, your host where can only be described as a celebration for everyone on earth. So think about this, light from the earliest days of the universe has been traveling to us for billions of years. Just over the last few weeks, we’ve captured some of that light with the telescope that sees the universe in an entirely new way. And today we share the very first results. So longtime space fans are going to know who this is. This is Dr. John Mather, he’s the senior project scientist for the web telescope and a Nobel Prize Winner. And John, I couldn’t be happier to be here with you today.

John Mather: (04:09)
Thank you. It’s a thrill to be here for this very special day.

Michelle Thaller: (04:12)
How are you feeling?

John Mather: (04:13)
I am thrilled and I’m relieved because when you start something this big, there’s always a possibility it might not work. It did work. We are so proud.

Michelle Thaller: (04:23)
And you’ve been on this project for a very long time, right?

John Mather: (04:26)
Yeah. Started in 1995, we had just finished measuring the Big Bang. We measured it with a Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite that we built right here at Goddard. And we measured the spectrum. We measured their hot and cold spots in the Big Bang. So we said, “Now we know it all, how it all got started, but then what happened after that?” So then I got a call from NASA headquarters, “Would I like to work on this new telescope that’s going to help answer those questions?” What happened after the Big Bang? How did the galaxies grow? How did the first black holes grow? What happened all the way from there to here? So this is our time machine and I just wanted to be part of it. I am so thrilled that we got a chance to do it.

Michelle Thaller: (05:04)
One of the things that I remember you saying and this is kind of amazing that you, after you win the Nobel Prize, you thought that this mission was the most important thing to work on.

John Mather: (05:11)
Absolutely. It’s the next question. After you know how it started, what happened then? And when suddenly we now have the technology to do it, we didn’t have 50 years ago. We didn’t have the technology 25 years ago even when I started this, we had to invent things along the way. So we did that and here it is.

Michelle Thaller: (05:30)
Well, thank you. We’ll be back to you in just a moment. So at the moment, we’re going to talk about the way that Webb is a completely new way to explore the universe. So today the mission releases its first science images and gives wings to the dreams of so many people who worked so hard for so long to make this possible. For everyone on earth, this is your telescope. This is the largest, most powerful observatory ever put into space. It’s the product of thousands of people working for more than two decades. This is a mission that’s singularly focused on the biggest questions in science. So the following phrase is often used too easily, but today actually does mark the dawn of a new era. Today, the Webb mission is open for scientific business and this is just the beginning. The best is yet to come.

Michelle Thaller: (06:13)
So John, one of the things you told me about is that you really want to make sure there are some people that get thanked, people that put a huge amount of effort into this.

John Mather: (06:20)
Absolutely. Our current Project Manager, Bill Ochs, took the project from a time of trouble when we didn’t exactly know how we were going to get this to work and got it all the way to the end. Here it is, it is working and it is because of Bill made this worldwide team, 20,000 people around the world were involved in making this thing all work. And Bill has been there every day making sure that it would happen. So another special person is Senator Barbara Mikulski. She saved our telescope and she saved the telescope before us. She made sure after the Hubble Telescope was launched and it was not in focus that we would go up and fix it. She made sure that happened. When the Webb Telescope needed more resources, she made sure we could get that. So Barbara, we thank you.

Michelle Thaller: (07:05)
Well, it is such an honor to be with your J. It’s been a pleasure to be working with you through this whole thing. Thank you so much. Congratulations and go Webb.

John Mather: (07:12)
Thank You.

Michelle Thaller: (07:14)
So this broadcast much like every part of this mission is a partnership. On our journey to explore distant places in space, we’ve been joined by intrepid travelers from around the globe. We have so many extraordinary collaborators. So let’s check in with our partners who’ll be sharing the stage with us today as we reveal Webb’s five first science images. From the European Space Agency, I’m joined by Katie Haswell in Darmstadt, Germany.

Michelle Thaller: (07:37)
Katie. I see Katie in the background there. Also joining us from the Canadian Space Agency in Montreal, we have Nathalie Ouellette and Sarah Gallagher. Bonjour. I see Katie in the background there. And so naturally we’re also going to be visiting the nerve center of this mission, the Space Telescope Science Institute on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. And there we have Alex Lockwood and Karl Gordon, and they’re going to give us updates and more. Good morning.

Speaker 1: (08:08)
Good morning.

Michelle Thaller: (08:11)
Great. So we’ll be back with our international partners shortly, where they’ll each reveal one of the new images, but today we’re also going to be joined by millions of science fans from around the world. Many are gathered, watch parties just for this event. So here we are really going international. So I’m beginning with Bhopal, India. Do we have a signal from Bhopal? Yes. Excellent. Welcome to NASA. Hello, everybody there. Wonderful to be talking to you today all the way in India.

Michelle Thaller: (08:41)
We’ll be back to them later, yes. Great to wave to you. Hi, wonderful. And we also have a warm welcome now in Portland, Oregon. So we have them feeding from Portland. Bit dark, but is anybody there? Hello Portland. They’re in auditorium I see. Okay. Okay. Next we’re going to go off to Milan, Italy. So afternoon in Italy. Do we have the feed from Italy? I guess we have a screen from Italy and next we’re going to go to Rutland, Vermont. So is this Vermont? Hello Vermont. Hi everybody. Nice to see you. Thank you for being part of this today.

Michelle Thaller: (09:17)
Okay. Going even a little bit further a field, we have Netanya, Israel. Hello. Hello Israel. Yay. Really nice to see you guys. Okay. And just one more for now. I see people like giving me hugs. Okay. We also have Vancouver, Canada. Hey Vancouver. Hi. All right. Wonderful, wonderful to have all these people with you. So right across from the campus from me, there’s also a huge watch party taking place with members of the Webb team. So the wonderful thing is that they actually are people that have worked on the mission and they are part of our NASA family. So hello, hello Webb team.

Michelle Thaller: (09:58)
There they are. Yes. A lot of people I recognize there. So it’s incredibly important to me personally and also to all of us at NASA that the universe belongs to everyone. And we are thrilled to share this day with fans everywhere around the world, we’ll say hello to some more later in our broadcast. So now it’s time to start the main event. What you’ll see over the next hour will be a collection of images, newly processed by the Webb science team. Only a tiny handful of experts have seen the images so far. And I can tell you that we have been so excited to unwrap them for everyone. We will be releasing each image in turn in real time. As soon as you see it on this broadcast, it’ll be available for download on the internet. On the screen below, you can see a timeline showing where we are in the show and what’s coming up next. And by the end of the show, all five images will be available to everyone. So hopefully you can tell I’m excited. Okay, so let’s do this.

Michelle Thaller: (11:09)
Okay. We are going to release the first image right here at NASA Goddards Space Flight Center, Maryland. And we’re just outside of Washington, DC. NASA Goddard is home to the project office of the Webb Telescope and the observatory portion of the telescope that the mirrors and the science instruments were integrated and tested here before launch. So for many of us, including myself, seeing Webb come together bit by bit, right in front of our eyes was an emotional and very inspiring experience. So it’s kind of like a part of us was out there with Webb right now, a million miles away. Part of our hopes and dreams are out there. So I’m-

Knicole Colon: (11:40)
We’re seeing as they looked about the time the sun and the earth formed and then behind the cluster, we have the gravity of the cluster is distorting and warping our view of what’s behind. And so there are these galaxies that look stretched and pulled like they’ve been magnified because they’ve been magnified by the gravity of the cluster just like Einstein said they would. And it’s really, there’s so much detail here. We’re seeing these galaxies in a way that we’ve never been able to see before. There’s just a sharpness and a clarity we’ve never had. And so we can look at, if we zoom in on this image and I encourage you as you grab this image at home, zoom in, you can really zoom in and play around. There are galaxies here in which you’re seeing individual clusters of stars forming, popping up just like popcorn.

Knicole Colon: (12:33)
And then we also see in the background of this image littered like jewels all over the back of the image are these faint red galaxies. Now that was what we built the telescope to do. The most distant of those are billions of years… We’re seeing as they looked more than 13 billion years ago. And so galaxies like that one right there, this little red guy, you’re like, okay, yep. What is that? Well, Webb got spectra to figure out what those galaxies are made of and this is that one. We’re seeing as it looked 13.1 billion years in the past, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. And we’re seeing the elements of oxygen and hydrogen as well as neon. This is how the oxygen in our bodies was made, in stars, in galaxies and we’re seeing that process get started.

Michelle Thaller: (13:30)
I want to give this a little bit of context. So this is now the farthest away galaxy that we have this sort of detailed information about.

Knicole Colon: (13:36)
That we know what’s made of.

Michelle Thaller: (13:37)
We know what it’s made of.

Knicole Colon: (13:38)

Michelle Thaller: (13:39)
And this was not a long exposure for Webb.

Knicole Colon: (13:41)
No, the previous record holder, the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field was two weeks of continuous work with Hubble and it was just imaging. With Webb, we took that image before breakfast. The amazing thing about Webb is the speed at which we can churn out discoveries. So everything that you’re going to see here in this broadcast is a week-

Jane: (14:03)
… that you’re going to see here in this broadcast is a week, and we’re going to be doing discoveries like this every week.

Michelle Thaller: (14:07)
That is absolutely incredible, Jane, so thank you so much for joining us. It’s been an honor to be working with you. Congratulations on all your hard work.

Jane: (14:15)
Thank you. It’s so wonderful to see it pay off.

Michelle Thaller: (14:18)
Thank you, and I’ll see you later on today, I hope-

Jane: (14:19)

Michelle Thaller: (14:20)
… so enjoy the day.

Jane: (14:21)
Thank you.

Michelle Thaller: (14:21)
All right. From distant galaxies, we now turn our eye to something a bit closer. It’s a planet, but not one in our solar system. Remember that Earth and its sibling planets aren’t the only show in the universe. When scientists and engineers started developing JWST, the search for exoplanets wasn’t even part of the plan. That’s changed. Exploring exoplanets is now a major component of the mission, and the subject of our second big reveal of the day. I’m going to send it now to our friends, [Natalie Willette 00:14:47] and [Sarah Gallagher 00:14:48] at the Canadian Space Agency in Montreal. So again, bonjour. I guess we’re having a little…

Speaker 2: (15:12)
[inaudible 00:15:12]. And I’m going to tell you…

Michelle Thaller: (15:21)
Sorry for the brief pause there, we’re now going over to Canada.

Speaker 2: (15:30)
[inaudible 00:15:30].

Michelle Thaller: (15:30)

Speaker 2: (15:32)
[inaudible 00:15:32]. Knicole, Knicole [inaudible 00:15:33].

Michelle Thaller: (15:32)
Yep, we’re all ready. Yep. Okay, I apologize. We’re having some trouble with the signal from Canada. But luckily for us, we have an exoplanet expert right here just in case that happened. So this is Knicole Colon and she’s an exoplanet scientist at NASA. And we’re going to talk about this amazing new result from a very hot planet, I understand, about a thousand light years away.

Knicole Colon: (15:52)
That’s right. The exoplanet is named WASP-96 b and it is this hot gaseous giant puffy planet that it is about a thousand light years away. So that’s why today’s release is so exciting. [inaudible 00:16:04].

Michelle Thaller: (16:04)
Absolutely. So talk us through what this discovery is and why this is so significant.

Knicole Colon: (16:13)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, this reveal that you’re going to see is going to show the first spectrum of an exoplanet as taken from the Webb telescope, and this exciting because it covers infrared wavelengths of light that we have not had access to before. So we’ve been able to use other telescopes to explore exoplanet atmospheres in the infrared, but not to this level of detail. And this is just one sliver of data that Webb is providing us using the nearest instrument specifically.

Michelle Thaller: (16:45)
And there’s something about infrared that is actually particularly good for the spectrum. So in this case, what we’re doing is we’re actually going to take the light and break it up into a rainbow and look very, very carefully at how much color is coming in each part of the spectrum. So I believe we have that image if we can put that up.

Knicole Colon: (17:01)
Okay. Yes. I believe we’re revealing the spectrum right here. So we now have our spectrum, and this is exactly what you’re seeing as you just described with spectroscopy. What we did was we observed a transit of an exoplanet. We observed the planet as it passed in front of the star. Now, mind you, this is not a direct image. This is an indirect image. So we’ve seen the effect of what happens on the planet, and its atmosphere passes in front of the star, the starlight filters through the atmosphere, and then you can break that down into wavelengths of light and you get a bunch of what looks like bumps and wiggles to some people, but it’s actually full of information content. So you’re actually seeing bumps and wiggles that indicate the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere of this exoplanet.

Michelle Thaller: (17:45)
So we have the spectrum up here. Is there anything you’d like to highlight particularly?

Knicole Colon: (17:49)
Yeah, absolutely. So we have several features marked here. So I call them features, they’re these, what I just referred you as bumps and wiggles. But what you’re seeing here is the telltale signature, the chemical fingerprint of water vapor in these atmospheres, in the atmosphere of this specific exoplanet. And the other thing we can tell actually is that there’s evidence of clouds and hazes, because the water features are not quite as large as we predicted. So we can take that and infer that there are presence of clouds and hazes.

Michelle Thaller: (18:19)
Right. Now one thing that we really want to make sure people understand is with this particular planet, this is a hot world is actually closer to its star than mercury is to our sun. And so we’re not looking at liquid water here, but we’re looking instead of at sort of steam, water vapor.

Knicole Colon: (18:32)
Yes. This is an exoplanet. It’s about the size of Jupiter, about half the massive Jupiter. It orbits around a sun-like star, but it does it every about three and a half days. So it’s extremely hot, extremely close, and nothing like our solar system planets. But that’s okay, because what we’re seeing is, again, the first exoplanet data from Webb, and this is just the beginning, we’re going to start pushing down to further smaller planets and being able to take measurements just like this with the nearest instrument that was built by the Canadian Space Agency, but also there’s three other science instruments that will add to our knowledge in the infrared, as well as direct imaging modes along with the transit methods. So there’s a lot more to come.

Michelle Thaller: (19:13)
And I guess one thing we should mention is not only are we going to be looking at planets that are more like the earth in the future, but we’ll also be looking at planets in our own solar system.

Knicole Colon: (19:19)
Absolutely. Yes. We’re going to have exciting data from planets in our solar system, from Mars outward, as well as asteroids and comments. So stay tuned for a lot more to come.

Michelle Thaller: (19:29)
Thank you so much, Knicole, thank you so much for telling us about the spectrum and I’ll be seeing you later on today. So we have three more big image reveals and with that new and more exciting science. But first, let’s take a look back at the journey that brought us to this moment. Celebration like this one are only possible with years of hard work from a cast of thousands. When a new mission is being built, even the most enthusiastic space fans only get to see dramatic moments in this life cycle, the news and images that come out in updates and press releases, but that doesn’t really give you the sense of the huge effort that goes on behind the scenes every day. The plan schedules and organization to keep everything moving forward really happens, for the most part, out of people’s gaze. Webb started as an idea that took root at NASA Goddard.

Michelle Thaller: (20:11)
It grew first into planning teams, research projects, schematics, requirements. Then it began the long journey to become real with the development of new technologies, cutting edge engineering, and finally fabrication, putting it all together. Let’s take a brief look back at the visionary journey to how we all got here today.

Speaker 5: (20:29)
So today was the final close out of the [inaudible 00:20:33]

Michelle Thaller: (20:32)
Okay guys, I can hear [inaudible 00:20:34].

Speaker 5: (20:34)
It’s a pretty emotional moment to be in there and actually closing it up for the very last time. You know you’re the last one to touch this. So that was the final operation. And once that fitting is closed out, there’s no more touching of the vehicle. We’re ready for launch.

Speaker 4: (21:03)
The James Webb Space Telescope born from the desires of astronomers, achieved with newly invented technology, is the culmination of 20 years of work. Humanity has unlimited questions about our universe. Engineering a way to investigate them requires enormous creativity.

Speaker 6: (21:37)
Webb has been a trade off between engineering performance, what the astronomers want, risk, in fact, when we started 20 years ago, we were actually looking at an eight meter telescope.

Speaker 4: (21:48)
Developing the most sensitive instruments and testing and more testing.

Speaker 3: (22:04)
And so you don’t want to build one that’s just incrementally better than what you’ve got, because if that’s the case, you would just observe longer on the telescope that you already got. And so every time NASA builds a new astrophysics mission, a new telescope, it needs to be way more sensitive, way more capable than anything we’ve ever built before.

Speaker 7: (22:25)
We all got together in that conference room and we played, real time as the images came down from the spacecraft, the very first diffraction-limited images ever obtained with Webb. And what we collectively saw as a group was the highest resolution infrared image taken from space ever.

Michelle Thaller: (22:48)
If you’re just joining us, I’m Michelle Thaller at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and you are watching live coverage over the release of the first science images from the James Webb Space Telescope. So it’s appropriate now that I send the broadcast to our colleagues and friends at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, that’s the scientific nerve center of the entire Webb mission. So hello, good morning, Alex. The show is yours.

Alex Lockwood: (23:12)
Hey Michelle, welcome to the Space Telescope Science Institute. I’m Alex Lockwood, and I’m here with Karl Gordon, who is an astronomer and one of the key people in delivering the images that you’re going to see here today.

Alex Lockwood: (23:29)
But actually before we get into the amazing images, we’re going to talk a little bit about where we are. We’re standing here outside of the mission operations center, which is the key central hub for Webb. For the past six months, scientists and engineers have been working 24/7, since they took control of the telescope 30 minutes after launch, to prepare for today, and for the amazing science to come through all of the major deployments, focusing, aligning the telescope and calibrating those four amazing science instruments. It was all done in this building. And from here on out, we’ll have daily communications with the telescope, including sending commands and downloading data with the help of the deep space network. In addition to mission operations, we are also the home of science operations. Well, what does that mean? Every year we solicit proposals from astronomers across the country and the world for what they would like to look at with Webb.

Alex Lockwood: (24:25)
Then we hold a rigorous selection process to select the ideas that will best utilize Webb to study and understand our universe. When the data come down and astronomers analyze their results, we are the lucky ones who get to share that data and those amazing science results with you. And we knew that today was going to be so exciting with the first images. So we’ve actually been preparing for years. Here is Klaus Pontoppidan, project scientist for Webb and the technical lead for the first images to tell you about the process of the past few years of selecting [inaudible 00:24:59].

Klaus Pontoppidan: (24:59)
Yeah, it’s been a years long process. I look back and my first email related to the first images was back from 2016. So back then a committee was created, and this committee was charged with coming up with a long list of targets for the first images. And the reason for that is that the observatory can’t see the entire sky at any given time. And this is because you want to avoid the mirror seeing direct sunlight to keep it cold. It actually had to be quite a long list. We ended up with about 70 targets from which we had to select only a handful. What would create the most beautiful images? What would highlight the instruments? The different four science instruments for Webb. And what would highlight the four major science themes for Webb. And it’s a celebration, as well, of the beginning of science observations.

Alex Lockwood: (25:57)
And we knew that selecting the images was just the beginning, that we would need a trained eye to take these exquisite data and pull out the beauty and the science potential. So here’s Joe DePasquale and Alyssa Pagan to tell you about how they processed these beautiful images.

Speaker 2: (26:21)
And they have it up downstairs. I think they missed some of that beginning [inaudible 00:26:25].

Joe DePasquale: (26:26)
We’re basically translating light that we can’t see into light that we can see by applying a color like red, green, and blue to the different filters that we have from Webb. And the reason we want to color the images is because there’s actually more that you can get, more information that you can get from the image if you see it in color.

Alyssa Pagan: (26:41)
So it’s a matter of picking and choosing filters and colors that enhance the details and the structure in the image itself.

Joe DePasquale: (26:49)
The shortest wavelengths of infrared light and assign those blue colors and then move our way down to green and red as we go to longer and longer wavelengths.

Alyssa Pagan: (26:57)
And then we additively combine those together to get our full color image.

Joe DePasquale: (27:04)
But there is a lot of aesthetics that are involved in this and painstakingly going through and cleaning these images up with an attention to detail, a level of detail like at the pixel level, in every image.

Alyssa Pagan: (27:16)
So when I’m working on the astronomical data, it is this sort of marriage between art and science. When you’re choosing colors for the filters, you really are trying to show the different details and the processes that are happening in astronomical images. But at the end of the day, you want it to be very compelling. You want it to be very beautiful, because space is beautiful.

Alex Lockwood: (27:45)
And after those images were processed, there was a select few of us, a very lucky few of us, who got to see the first images.

Klaus Pontoppidan: (27:54)
[inaudible 00:27:54] so just to make it little more and more handy, so potentially higher resolution.

Speaker 8: (28:02)
So just to make it a little more and more [inaudible 00:28:04] So we have a team of about 30 people who are producing these images and we feel incredibly privileged to be the ones who are the first to see these science-like images. When we saw the first data come down of real targets, people were speechless and there were emotions because immediately we could see how amazing this observatory would be, the detail, the sharpness, the depth. And when we saw the first color images, we knew that we had [inaudible 00:28:39]

Alex Lockwood: (28:43)
And now we are ready to see Webb’s first image of a star dying, a planetary nebula called the Southern Ring. Let’s do it. Wow. Wow. This near-infrared image is wow. The detail. Wow. Okay. Well, here we are. We have a near-infrared image on our left, or on maybe your right. And here on the right, we have a near-infrared image. And so I’m here with Karl, our astronomer specialist. Can you tell us what we’re looking at in these images?

Karl Gordon: (29:31)
So this is a planetary nebula, it’s caused by a dying star that has expelled a large fraction of its mass over in successive waves.

Alex Lockwood: (29:39)
Okay. So we actually see those waves in these images.

Karl Gordon: (29:42)

Alex Lockwood: (29:42)
Wow. Wow. And so there’s a lot of structure. Can you tell us a little more detail about what we’re looking? Maybe start with this one on the left.

Karl Gordon: (29:49)
Yeah. So in the NIRCam image, you see this bubbly almost foamy appearance throughout the whole nebula with some very structured shells, and this foaminess is showing up in orange mainly. And this is due to the molecular hydrogen that’s newly formed in the expansion just lighting up the gas and dust of this nebula. And then as we move inward, you see this kind of very blue haze in the inner region. And this is actually due to very hot ionized gas that emits well in the blue, that’s heated by the core, the leftover very hot core of this star.

Alex Lockwood: (30:23)
And what about these rays that I’m seeing in this image?

Karl Gordon: (30:26)
Right, so there’s also rays in the outer regions that you can see, and these are holes in the inner nebula that are actually allowing the central star’s lights to come out and light it up like patchy clouds with the sun shining through.

Alex Lockwood: (30:40)
Wow. Oh, yeah. That’s what it looks like. That’s so cool. So you’re actually a mid-infrared astronomer, which is different than near infrared. And so what can you tell us about the details in this mid-infrared image?

Karl Gordon: (30:53)
So this is… It looks quite different in color, partly because we’re seeing different kinds of physics going on here. So we’re actually seeing in the blue, you see a lot of blue, the blue is actually due to hydrocarbon grains that are emitting very strongly in the blue for MIRI. And they show the very similar structures to what we see in orange in NIRCam because the molecular hydrocarbon actually forms on the surface of dust grains. And so, again, as we move inward, we see it that the inner region is again, hot ion ice gas, but now it glows red because that’s where it emits the strongest for MIRI wavelengths.

Alex Lockwood: (31:27)

Karl Gordon: (31:28)
And then as we go into the center, we see the surprise for us, which is we knew this was a binary star, but we effectively didn’t really see much of the actual star that produced the nebula. But now in MIRI, this star glows red because it has dust around it. So in MIRI we get to see both stars very clearly.

Alex Lockwood: (31:46)
Yeah. Yeah. You can’t see it in first image really, but there’s two stars there. So that’s a fun surprise. And I think that there’s another little Easter egg you want to tell us about.

Karl Gordon: (31:55)
Yeah. So the Easter egg is this narrow filament up in the top that’s radially aligned. You can see it very clearly in the MIRI image, it shows up as this blue structure. And it points very much to the central sources, so I thought, “Oh, this must just be a density enhancement in the outer nebula.” I thought that very, very strongly, but other people on the team were like, “No, it’s a background edge-on galaxy.” Well, I made a bet that said, “No, it’s part of the nebula.” By the way, I lost the bet, because then we looked more carefully at both the NIRCam and MIRI images and it’s very clearly an edge-on galaxy with a dust lane and a bulge. So I lost the bet.

Alex Lockwood: (32:33)
Well, you lost the bet, but you got these gorgeous images, so I think it’s a win for everybody.

Karl Gordon: (32:38)
It’s a win.

Alex Lockwood: (32:39)
Anything else you’d like to say today?

Karl Gordon: (32:41)
I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Alex Lockwood: (32:43)
Oh, neither can I. All right, thanks so much. Back to you, Michelle.

Michelle Thaller: (32:51)
Thank you, Alex and Karl, and I have to say that image is absolutely spectacular. So as you know, people from all over the world are watching us today and joining in our excitement as we release Webb’s first science images. We’ve been checking in with our colleagues in Europe and Canada throughout the program, but we also want to take a moment to include the people at the oh-so-many viewing parties scattered around the world like stars in the night sky. So let’s check in with some of them now.

Michelle Thaller: (33:18)
First we go all the way to Perth, Australia. Do we have a signal from Perth? I guess nothing from Perth right now. Maybe we have some of our other feeds. We’re going to check in with them right now. Do we have Winnipeg, Canada? Oh, there it is. There’s Australia. There’s Perth. Hey! Waving to Perth, Australia. Thank you so much for joining us today. And next we’re going to Winnipeg. Winnipeg, Canada. Hello, Winnipeg. At a planetarium. Everybody’s enjoying the show, I hope. Okay. Dayton, Ohio. Everybody’s watching on the… There we go. Dayton, Ohio. Hello, everybody. Dayton, nice to have you here with us. There we go, yes. Hey! Hey Dayton. Hey! They’re jumping up and down. Hi.

Michelle Thaller: (34:10)
Okay. All the way. Bangalore, India. India, Bangalore. Hello! Hello to Bangalore, India. Hey! That’s absolutely wonderful. Hey! Okay. So I hope you enjoy the rest of the images we’re releasing. Okay. Of course NASA’s family extends all over the country. The team at JPL in Pasadena, California, they’re on site to celebrate with us. So hello, JPL. Some of my favorite people in the world. Hey, hello! And I think the last place we’re going to right now is Northrop Grumman, one of our major contractors. Hello, Northrop Grumman! Oh, hey! All right! Yay! Nice to see you at Northrop Grumman.

Michelle Thaller: (34:58)
All right. Now there’s also a big watch party right here on the NASA Goddard campus. Many of these people have worked on the mission itself and we also top NASA leadership and representative our government. So, hello. Hello, watch party at Goddard. Yay! Okay, wonderful. So, I mean, at NASA, we are so fortunate to have all of these friends and colleagues around the globe. A major partner in the Webb mission is the European Space Agency. ESA contributions have been essential to so many aspects of this project, including Webb’s spectacular launch on the Ariane 5 rocket last December. I’m very pleased to turn over the show for a few minutes to Katie Haswell. She’s joining me from the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Hello, Katie. Good afternoon.

Katie Haswell: (35:49)
Thanks, Michelle. Thank you, Michelle and welcome to Germany. We’re at the European Space Agency.

Michelle Thaller: (35:58)
I’m still getting all kinds of [inaudible 00:36:01]

Katie Haswell: (36:00)
Center. It’s where the teams effectively fly the satellites, they’re a little bit of a cross between air traffic controllers and pilots. We have lots of different control rooms here. This is the main control room and as you can see today it’s not in use, so we’ve been lucky enough to move in here for today. I have two very special experts with me, both scientists from the European Space Agency, Giovanna Giardino is a NIRSpec scientist. Giovanna has been working on that for many years and lots to tell us about that. And Mark McCaughrean is a special advisor for Space for science and exploration. These two guys have been working on the Webb Space Telescope for a long time. So we’re very grateful to have you with us. Thanks folks.

Giovanna Giardino: (36:48)
[inaudible 00:36:48]

Mark McCaughrean: (36:48)
A pleasure.

Katie Haswell: (36:49)
We are excited to reveal our image with you, but before we do that, we thought we’d give you a little bit of background because we’ve come here today because these guys were the first ones to pick up the signal during the Webb launch, when Webb first launched. They run a system called S Track, which is NASA’s deep space tracking system, and they were listening out when Webb called home. And the controllers here have been looking after a whole very [inaudible 00:37:21] list of missions since 1968.

Katie Haswell: (37:27)
ESA has played a very, very important role for the Webb Space Telescope. They provided the launch onboard the awesome Ariane 5 launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Centre. The atmosphere in the mission control center was electric. I can tell you, I was there. They’ve also provided people. We have 15 ESA scientists working at Space Telescope in Baltimore, and also they have provided the infrared spectrograph, the near infrared spectrograph and also half of the MIRI instrument, which is the mid infrared instrument. Let’s take a look at those now.

Speaker 9: (38:11)
Webb’s four scientific instruments include NIRSpec, the near infrared spectograph led by ESA. NIRSpec splits near infrared light from astronomical objects into its components. Like a barcode, this will help scientists understand the physics of the objects they’re observing, from their temperature to atomic makeup. NIRSpec can observe parts of an object or the sky using an image slicer and an array of microscopic shutters. Webb’s integrated science instrument module located behind the main mirror also contains MIRI, a mid-infrared camera and spectograph. Seen here during testing, MIRI’s been developed by a partnership between Europe and the US. MIRI detects mid-infrared light from planets, stars, and galaxies. It can analyze molecules to help us deduce what astronomical objects are made of and peer into clouds of gas and dust, where stars and planets are born. Together, these instruments will help Webb detect and analyze light from the very dawn of time, revealing the universe as never before.

Katie Haswell: (39:33)
So, let’s get ready to reveal our image. And remember that one of Webb’s jobs is to find out about galaxies, more about the galaxies, but also to help us to understand how they change, and this image is going to be very, very useful for that. Let’s reveal it now. There it is. It’s called Stephan’s Quintet and it’s wondrous. Giovanna, what are we looking at?

Giovanna Giardino: (40:01)
Yes. Like you said, Quintet. So we are looking at five galaxies. Galaxies are this giant structure that as we’ve seen, we see everywhere around us in the universe. They contain from million to hundred billions of stars. And in fact, we live in one of them, the Milky Way. And here we see five of them. This is a closer galaxy in the foreground. And these four are at a distance of about 300 million light years from us and they’re locked in a close interaction, a sort of cosmic dance driven by the gravitational force. You can see here these two in a process of merging within each other. This is a very important image and an area to study because it really shows the type of interaction that drives the evolution of galaxies that’s the mechanism of galaxies’ growth.

Katie Haswell: (41:00)
I love this image of the cosmic dance moving through each other. Mark, there’s a lot going on, though, in this image isn’t there?

Mark McCaughrean: (41:08)
There is. So this is a near-infrared image.

Giovanna Giardino: (41:09)
With NIRSpec, we can zoom into this area and we have this technology that allows us to take thousands of image at different wavelength channels. So see, this distribution of the gas, what’s going on in the gas, in different region of this core area and understand the composition of the gas, the velocities, the temperature. So that’s very important, to understand the physics.

Katie Haswell: (41:41)
So it is giving us so much information and it just shows the power of this telescope. Mark, this is just the beginning though, isn’t it?

Mark McCaughrean: (41:49)
I think that’s a very important takeaway from today. These are pictures just taken over a period of five days and every five days we’re getting more data, which will contribute more in that direction. It’s a culmination of decades of work, but it’s just the beginning of decades.

Mark McCaughrean: (42:02)
… Culmination of decades of work, but it’s just the beginning of decades. And what we’ve seen today with these images is essentially that we’re ready now. This telescope is working fantastically well and, to borrow a phrase from a famous rock musician, we’re ready to turn this telescope up to 11. It really is time. It’s fantastic.

Katie: (42:18)
Thank you very much, indeed, both of you. Back to you, Michele.

Michelle Thaller: (42:29)
Thanks, Katie. It’s so great to have you and your colleagues with us on this historic day.

Michelle Thaller: (42:33)
So before we get to the fifth and final image reveal of the day, it cannot be said enough that an achievement like the James Webb Space Telescope is something bigger than any one of us. It’s bigger than any organization, any country. This truly takes a planet. Webb belongs to all of us. And starting today, the discoveries start and they’re not going to stop. This is just the beginning.

Michelle Thaller: (42:53)
We’ve said several times throughout the broadcast that the Webb mission is about people. And during the construction of the great telescope, people started to see themselves in it, literally. Day after day, people visited the observation window at. And looking through the glass, they snapped selfies of themselves reflected in the gigantic golden mirror. These photos are actual reflections of the enormous human investment and the emotional commitment that brought this mission to life. And now, years later, that mission is finally collecting light from the earliest days of the Universe, all the way to worlds in our own solar system. It’s the same mirror that reflected the many faces who see themselves as part of the journey to understand our shared origins. Let’s stop for a moment and appreciate the people behind Webb.

Michelle Thaller: (43:42)
Okay. It’s time now for the last image to be revealed. Here we go: So Amber Strong is Webb’s deputy project scientist. She’s here with me today to share the final big reveal of the day. So Amber, it is so good to see you. How are you feeling?

Knicole Colon: (44:15)
Oh, so great. So exciting. What a great day this is.

Michelle Thaller: (44:18)
Yeah. So one of the things that we’re going to do is before we get to the final image, the James Webb-

Thomas: (44:23)
… Tell everybody I’m paid to worry, frankly, and that’s good. What we want to do though is just really thank the team again. Of course we heard Bill and Scott and Greg talking about the team that is there. I think what’s also important is to recognize that Bernie is sitting there, who was the first manager, who is sitting there. Could you stand up?

Thomas: (44:50)
And I want to mention that Phil Sabelhaus, who was a manager also during that time, is no longer with us. But his heart is with us today.

John Mather: (44:59)

Knicole Colon: (45:04)
I have to tell you, John, after each one of these milestones, I called a lot of people. I called Bernie, for example, and I called people who are at my job and people who are administrators, because there’s many of them. And I just wonder how you feel about the team, just give you the word here.

John Mather: (45:19)
I am just so thrilled that we had the privilege to assemble such a brilliant team. We drew from the best of the best, and here we are. So my extreme deep thanks go to all the people who built that team, not only to Bernie who started us and helped us build up all the technology, to Phil who made sure we would have a plan and then, when we didn’t have quite enough money, to Bill who pulled it all together and made it get all the way to the end. I am so thrilled that we had so much talent to draw on, and here we are. We have the support of the country and the world to take on this immense challenge.

Thomas: (45:56)
You know what I’m most excited about? There’s tens of thousands of scientists and, frankly, some of them just got born, or not even born, who are benefiting from this amazing telescope because it will be with us for decades.

John Mather: (46:10)
It will be.

Thomas: (46:10)
Imagine that.

John Mather: (46:11)
It took us about 25 years to get here since 1995, and we have at least 25 to go. I hope.

Thomas: (46:18)
So look, we are in a sense of these images, the art that is out there in the sky revealed for the first time. We’re thinking of the team and we’re thanking them. John, thanks to you, thanks to all of you, and back to Michele.

Michelle Thaller: (46:33)
Thank you so much, Thomas. And this entire collection continues to just absolutely astound me.

Michelle Thaller: (46:39)
Okay, Amber. So here it is: can you walk us through the final image reveal?

Michelle Thaller: (46:44)
Absolutely. Here we go:

Michelle Thaller: (46:48)
The last image is … Wow! Look at that.

Thomas: (46:53)
So Amber, can you tell us a bit about what we’re seeing here?

Knicole Colon: (46:55)
Of course. This stunning vista of the cosmic cliffs of the Carina Nebula reveals new details about this vast stellar nursery. Today, for the first time, we’re seeing brand new stars that were previously completely hidden from our view.

Michelle Thaller: (47:11)
Is there something you want to point out here?

Knicole Colon: (47:13)
Absolutely. So honestly it took me a while to even figure out what to call out in this image. There’s just so much going on here. It’s so beautiful.

Knicole Colon: (47:22)
One thing that really stands out to me is you get this sense of depth and texture from this new data. There’s a lot going on. To call out a few specifics, first of all, in general, the Carina Nebula is a nearby star forming region within our own Milky Way galaxy, about 7,600 light years away. And in this view, we see some great examples, first of all, of hundreds of new stars that we’ve never seen before. We see examples of bubbles and cavities and jets that are being blown out by these newborn stars. We even see some galaxies sort of lurking in the background up here. We see examples of structures that, honestly, we don’t even know what they are. Like what’s going on here? The data is just so rich.

Michelle Thaller: (48:10)
And there’s something really special about the infrared. Infrared can actually see deeper into these star forming regions?

Knicole Colon: (48:15)
Absolutely. That’s one of the great things about infrared is it really does reveal what’s going on here in a really cosmic sense. And in general, what’s happening in this overall landscape is we have these gigantic hot young stars up here to the top of this rim, and the radiation and stellar winds from those stars is sort of pushing down and running into all of this. This is gas and dust, and of course we know that gas and dust is great raw material for newborn stars and baby planets.

Knicole Colon: (48:48)
But there’s a flip side to this story, and also a little bit of a mystery, because these same processes can serve to erode away this material and stop star formation. So we have this delicate balance going on of new stars being formed but, at the same time, the star formation is being halted. And for me, when I see an image like this, I can’t help but think about scale. Every dot of light we see here is an individual star, not unlike our Sun, and many of these likely also have planets. And it just reminds me that our Sun and our planets and, ultimately, us were formed out of the same kind of stuff that we see here. We humans really are connected to the universe. We’re made of the same stuff in this beautiful landscape.

Michelle Thaller: (49:37)
And actually, the Carina Nebula was one of my favorite images from Hubble. So Hubble looked at this as well, right?

Knicole Colon: (49:42)
Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, the Hubble image of this is also spectacular. We saw it in a different kind of light, when Hubble took an image of this particular Nebula. And then you can see amazing things with Hubble, but when we zoom into this new image, we’re able to see so much more detail. And of course, all of us .. You know? I grew up on Hubble, and all of us love Hubble. And I’m so excited to see what these two amazing observatories are able to do really in tandem with each other.

Michelle Thaller: (50:13)
Thank you so much. And again, congratulations. It’s been a pleasure to be working on this with you. I’m just amazed by what’s been going on.

Knicole Colon: (50:20)
I am too. Thank you.

Michelle Thaller: (50:21)
So as we’re wrapping up, one of the things that I really have to say is the journey that we’ve been going on is so very dramatic for me. So we’ve gone all the way from the distant galaxies to the birth of stars. This is where we all began. This was the whole point of the James Webb Space Telescope, to figure out our origins from the very, very early days of the Universe, to star and planet formation very nearby. So right now, I’m very honored to have our last special guest. This is the administrator of NASA, Bill Nelson. An honor to be with you, sir.

Bill Nelson: (50:55)
Hey, what a pleasure? What a banner day. It’s clear that Webb represents the best of NASA. It maintains our ability to propel us forward for science, for risk-taking, for inspiration. And we don’t want to ever stop exploring the heavens, nor stop daring to take another step forward for humanity. In the words of the famous Carl Sagan, ” Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” I think those words are becoming reality.

Michelle Thaller: (51:40)

Bill Nelson: (51:41)
Thanks, Michele.

Michelle Thaller: (51:42)
An honor to have you here. Thank you very much.

Michelle Thaller: (51:45)
Wow! So this is a celebration for all humanity. If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky in wonder, whoever you are, wherever you are, this is your telescope. And we also salute the thousands of people who have dedicated part of their lives to making Webb a reality.

Michelle Thaller: (52:02)
I also want to give a big shout out for the super media team, whose helped bring Webb’s story to the world. This broadcast is a joint effort of the superstar producers, animators, and social media specialists at the Canadian Space Agency, iSSA, NASA, and especially the Goddard Space Flight Center. Webb captures light and distant colors that the eye can’t see, and you’ve actually made this visible to the world.

Michelle Thaller: (52:24)
So finally, if you go to nasa.gov/webbfirstimages, you could download all of the images and data we’ve just shown in full resolution. And check back often. From now on, we share new discoveries of exciting new destinations around the Universe. July 12th, 2022 marks a huge day for science, and it’s only just the beginning. For everyone at CSA, iSSA, and NASA, I’m so very pleased you could join us. I’m Michele Fowler. Go Webb.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.