(CNN) — NASA released the first high-resolution color images from the James Webb Space Telescope. The first image released, taken by Webb’s infrared camera, is made up of images taken in different wavelengths of light over the course of 12.5 hours. The deepest fields from the Hubble Space Telescope took weeks to capture.
The Hubble Telescope’s 31 years of operation have produced a host of unanticipated discoveries, and the scientific community sees webb and its capabilities in the same way.
“Webb can look back in time to just after the Big Bang by looking for galaxies that are so far away, light has taken many billions of years to get from those galaxies to us,” said Jonathan Gardner, deputy principal scientist on the project. Webb at NASA, during a recent press conference. “Webb is bigger than Hubble, so you can see fainter galaxies that are further away.”
Launched in December, the Webb telescope allows researchers to get four times closer to the Big Bang than the Hubble Space Telescopeaccording to Marcia Rieke, regents professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory and principal investigator for the Near Infrared Camera on the Webb telescope.
Hubble observed the universe 450 million years after the Big Bang.
Each space telescope builds on the knowledge gained from the previous one. In Webb’s case, its mirror is nearly 60 times larger than previous space telescopes, including the retired Spitzer Space Telescope. The observatory also improves Hubble’s sensitivity and resolution.
The mission, originally expected to last 10 years, has enough excess fuel capacity to operate for 20 years, according to NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.
These will be just the first of many images to come from Webb over the next two decades, promising to fundamentally alter the way we understand the cosmos.
While some of what Webb might reveal has been anticipated, the unknowns are just as exciting for scientists.
“We still don’t know what we don’t know,” said Amber Straughn, deputy Webb project scientist for communications at NASA Goddard. “I think it’s true that every time we launch a revolutionary instrument into space, like Hubble, we learn things that completely surprise us, but change our fundamental understanding of how the universe works.”
With information from Ashley Strickland, CNN