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Webb rings in the holidays with the ringed planet Uranus


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The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope recently trained its sights on weird and enigmatic Uranus, an ice giant that orbits on its side. What Webb found is a dynamic world with rings, moons, storms, and other atmospheric features – including a seasonal polar cap. The image expands upon a two-colour version released earlier this year, adding additional wavelength coverage for a more detailed look.

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    • By NASA
      6 Min Read NASA’s Webb Opens New Window on Supernova Science
      The JADES Deep Field uses observations taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as part of the JADES (JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey) program. A team of astronomers studying JADES data identified about 80 objects that changed in brightness over time. Most of these objects, known as transients, are the result of exploding stars or supernovae. See annotated image below. Peering deeply into the cosmos, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is giving scientists their first detailed glimpse of supernovae from a time when our universe was just a small fraction of its current age. A team using Webb data has identified 10 times more supernovae in the early universe than were previously known. A few of the newfound exploding stars are the most distant examples of their type, including those used to measure the universe’s expansion rate.
      “Webb is a supernova discovery machine,” said Christa DeCoursey, a third-year graduate student at the Steward Observatory and the University of Arizona in Tucson. “The sheer number of detections plus the great distances to these supernovae are the two most exciting outcomes from our survey.”
      DeCoursey presented these findings in a press conference at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, Wisconsin.
      Image A: Jades Deep Field Annotated
      The JADES Deep Field uses observations taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as part of the JADES (JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey) program. A team of astronomers studying JADES data identified about 80 objects (circled in green) that changed in brightness over time. Most of these objects, known as transients, are the result of exploding stars or supernovae. Prior to this survey, only a handful of supernovae had been found above a redshift of 2, which corresponds to when the universe was only 3.3 billion years old — just 25% of its current age. The JADES sample contains many supernovae that exploded even further in the past, when the universe was less than 2 billion years old. It includes the farthest one ever spectroscopically confirmed, at a redshift of 3.6. Its progenitor star exploded when the universe was only 1.8 billion years old.
      ‘A Supernova Discovery Machine’
      To make these discoveries, the team analyzed imaging data obtained as part of the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES) program. Webb is ideal for finding extremely distant supernovae because their light is stretched into longer wavelengths — a phenomenon known as cosmological redshift.
      Prior to Webb’s launch, only a handful of supernovae had been found above a redshift of 2, which corresponds to when the universe was only 3.3 billion years old — just 25% of its current age. The JADES sample contains many supernovae that exploded even further in the past, when the universe was less than 2 billion years old.
      Previously, researchers used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to view supernovae from when the universe was in the “young adult” stage. With JADES, scientists are seeing supernovae when the universe was in its “teens” or “pre-teens.” In the future, they hope to look back to the “toddler” or “infant” phase of the universe.
      To discover the supernovae, the team compared multiple images taken up to one year apart and looked for sources that disappeared or appeared in those images. These objects that vary in observed brightness over time are called transients, and supernovae are a type of transient. In all, the JADES Transient Survey Sample team uncovered about 80 supernovae in a patch of sky only about the thickness of a grain of rice held at arm’s length.
      “This is really our first sample of what the high-redshift universe looks like for transient science,” said teammate Justin Pierel, a NASA Einstein Fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “We are trying to identify whether distant supernovae are fundamentally different from or very much like what we see in the nearby universe.”
      Pierel and other STScI researchers provided expert analysis to determine which transients were actually supernovae and which were not, because often they looked very similar.
      The team identified a number of high-redshift supernovae, including the farthest one ever spectroscopically confirmed, at a redshift of 3.6. Its progenitor star exploded when the universe was only 1.8 billion years old. It is a so-called core-collapse supernova, an explosion of a massive star. 
      Image B: Jades Deep Field Transients (NIRCam)
      This mosaic displays three of about 80 transients, or objects of changing brightness, identified in data from the JADES (JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey) program. Most of the transients are the result of exploding stars or supernovae. By comparing images taken in 2022 and 2023, astronomers could locate supernovae that recently exploded (like the examples shown in the first two columns), or supernovae that had already exploded and whose light was fading away (third column). The age of each supernova can be determined from its redshift (designated by ‘z’). The light of the most distant supernova, at a redshift of 3.8, originated when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old. A redshift of 2.845 corresponds to a time 2.3 billion years after the big bang. The closest example, at a redshift of 0.655, shows light that left its galaxy about 6 billion years ago, when the universe was just over half its current age.
      Uncovering Distant Type Ia Supernovae
      Of particular interest to astrophysicists are Type Ia supernovae. These exploding stars are so predictably bright that they are used to measure far-off cosmic distances and help scientists to calculate the universe’s expansion rate. The team identified at least one Type Ia supernova at a redshift of 2.9. The light from this explosion began traveling to us 11.5 billion years ago when the universe was just 2.3 billion years old. The previous distance record for a spectroscopically confirmed Type Ia supernova was a redshift of 1.95, when the universe was 3.4 billion years old.
      Scientists are eager to analyze Type Ia supernovae at high redshifts to see if they all have the same intrinsic brightness, regardless of distance. This is critically important, because if their brightness varies with redshift, they would not be reliable markers for measuring the expansion rate of the universe.
      Pierel analyzed this Type Ia supernova found at redshift 2.9 to determine if its intrinsic brightness was different than expected. While this is just the first such object, the results indicate no evidence that Type Ia brightness changes with redshift. More data is needed, but for now, Type Ia supernova-based theories about the universe’s expansion rate and its ultimate fate remain intact. Pierel also presented his findings at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
      Looking Toward the Future
      The early universe was a very different place with extreme environments. Scientists expect to see ancient supernovae that come from stars that contain far fewer heavy chemical elements than stars like our Sun. Comparing these supernovae with those in the local universe will help astrophysicists understand star formation and supernova explosion mechanisms at these early times.
      “We’re essentially opening a new window on the transient universe,” said STScI Fellow Matthew Siebert, who is leading the spectroscopic analysis of the JADES supernovae. “Historically, whenever we’ve done that, we’ve found extremely exciting things — things that we didn’t expect.”
      “Because Webb is so sensitive, it’s finding supernovae and other transients almost everywhere it’s pointed,” said JADES team member Eiichi Egami, a research professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “This is the first significant step toward more extensive surveys of supernovae with Webb.”
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). 
      Downloads
      Right click any image to save it or open a larger version in a new tab/window via the browser’s popup menu.
      View/Download all image products at all resolutions for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
      Media Contacts
      Laura Betz – laura.e.betz@nasa.gov, Rob Gutro – rob.gutro@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Ann Jenkins – jenkins@stsci.edu / Christine Pulliam – cpulliam@stsci.edu
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
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      Details
      Last Updated Jun 10, 2024 Editor Stephen Sabia Contact Laura Betz laura.e.betz@nasa.gov Related Terms
      Astrophysics Galaxies Galaxies, Stars, & Black Holes James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Missions Origin & Evolution of the Universe Science & Research The Universe View the full article
    • By NASA
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      Credit: NASA/Ryan Fitzgibbons What do you give to an ocean that has everything? This year, for National Ocean Month, NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite— is gifting us a unique look at our home planet. The visualizations created with data from the satellite, which launched on Feb. 8, are already enhancing the ways that we view our seas and skies. 
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      The visualization starts with a view of swaths of Earth from PACE’s Ocean Color Instrument. The Ocean Color Instrument observes Earth in ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared light — over 200 wavelengths. With this level of detail, scientists can now, from space, regularly identify specific communities of phytoplankton — tiny organisms floating near the surface of the ocean that serve as the center of the marine food web. This is a major advance, as different types of phytoplankton play different roles in ocean ecosystems and health.
      PACE orbits Earth in this visualization, exposing a swath of true color imagery. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Zooming in, the visualization shows the ecosystems and surrounding atmosphere off the United States’ East Coast and The Bahamas on March 21. Like previous satellites, the Ocean Color Instrument can detect chlorophyll in the ocean, which indicates the presence and abundance of phytoplankton. The Ocean Color Instrument adds to this by allowing scientists to determine the types of phytoplankton present, such as the three different types of phytoplankton identified in the visualization.
      False color data visualization of phytoplankton (Picoeukaryotes and Prochlorococcus), as observed by PACE’s Ocean Color instrument (OCI).NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio The portion of the swirls in green indicate the presence of picoeukaryotes, organisms which are smaller than 0.3 micrometers in size — 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. In light blue are prochlorococcus, the smallest known organism to turn sunlight into energy (photosynthesis); they account for a major fraction of all photosynthesis that occurs in the ocean. The portion of the bloom in bright pink indicates synechococcus, a phytoplankton group that can color the water light pink when many are present in a small area.
      False color data visualization of phytoplankton (Picoeukaryotes and Synechococcus), as observed by PACE’s OCI instrument. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio These are just three of the thousands of types of phytoplankton, and just the start of what the Ocean Color Instrument will be able to identify.
      The PACE satellite’s two polarimeters, Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter #2 (HARP2) and Spectro-polarimeter for Planetary Exploration one (SPEXone), provide a unique view of Earth’s atmosphere, helping scientists learn more about clouds and small particles called aerosols. The polarimeters measure light that reflects off of these particles. By learning more about the interactions between clouds and aerosols, these data will ultimately help make climate models more accurate. Additionally, aerosols can degrade air quality, so monitoring their properties and movement is important for human health.
      Aerosols, as observed by PACE’s HARP2 and SPEXone instruments.NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio In the visualization, the large swath of HARP2 data shows the concentration of aerosols in the air for that particular day. These data — a measure of the light scattering and absorbing properties of aerosols — help scientists not only locate the aerosols, but identify the type. Near the coast, the aerosols are most likely smoke from fires in the U.S. southeast. Adding detail to the visualization and the science, the thin swath of SPEXone data furthers the information by showing the aerosol particle size.
      Over the next year, PACE scientists aim to create the first global maps of phytoplankton communities and glean new insights into how fisheries and aquatic resources are responding to Earth’s changing climate.
      To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video
      NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) spacecraft was specifically designed to study the invisible universe of Earth’s sea and sky from the vantage point of space. We’ve measured 4-6 colors of the rainbow for decades, which has enabled us to “see” phytoplankton from space through the lens of its primary photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll-a. PACE’s primary instrument is the first of its kind to measure all the colors of the rainbow, every day, everywhere. That means we can identify the type of phytoplankton behind the chlorophyll-a. Different types of phytoplankton have different effects on the food web, on water management, and on the climate, via their impact on the carbon cycle.NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio By Erica McNamee
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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      Last Updated Jun 07, 2024 EditorKate D. RamsayerContactErica McNameeerica.s.mcnamee@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      5 Min Read Webb Finds Plethora of Carbon Molecules Around Young Star
      This is an artist’s impression of a young star surrounded by a disk of gas and dust. An international team of astronomers has used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study the disk of gas and dust around a young, very low-mass star. The results reveal the largest number of carbon-containing molecules seen to date in such a disk. These findings have implications for the potential composition of any planets that might form around this star.
      Rocky planets are more likely than gas giants to form around low-mass stars, making them the most common planets around the most common stars in our galaxy. Little is known about the chemistry of such worlds, which may be similar to or very different from Earth. By studying the disks from which such planets form, astronomers hope to better understand the planet formation process and the compositions of the resulting planets.
      Planet-forming disks around very low-mass stars are difficult to study because they are smaller and fainter than disks around high-mass stars. A program called the MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) Mid-INfrared Disk Survey (MINDS) aims to use Webb’s unique capabilities to build a bridge between the chemical inventory of disks and the properties of exoplanets.
      Image A: Artist’s Concept of Protoplanetary Disk
      This is an artist’s impression of a young star surrounded by a disk of gas and dust. An international team of astronomers has used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study the disk around a young and very low-mass star known as ISO-ChaI 147. The results reveal the richest hydrocarbon chemistry seen to date in a protoplanetary disk. “Webb has better sensitivity and spectral resolution than previous infrared space telescopes,” explained lead author Aditya Arabhavi of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. “These observations are not possible from Earth, because the emissions from the disk are blocked by our atmosphere.”
      In a new study, this team explored the region around a very low-mass star known as ISO-ChaI 147, a 1 to 2 million-year-old star that weighs just 0.11 times as much as the Sun. The spectrum revealed by Webb’s MIRI shows the richest hydrocarbon chemistry seen to date in a protoplanetary disk – a total of 13 different carbon-bearing molecules. The team’s findings include the first detection of ethane (C2H6) outside of our solar system, as well as ethylene (C2H4), propyne (C3H4), and the methyl radical CH3.
      “These molecules have already been detected in our solar system, like in comets such as 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy),” added Arabhavi. “Webb allowed us to understand that these hydrocarbon molecules are not just diverse but also abundant. It is amazing that we can now see the dance of these molecules in the planetary cradles. It is a very different planet-forming environment than we usually think of.”
      Image B: Protoplanetary disk of ISO-ChaI 147 (MIRI emission spectrum)
      The team indicates that these results have large implications for the chemistry of the inner disk and the planets that might form there. Since Webb revealed the gas in the disk is so rich in carbon, there is likely little carbon left in the solid materials that planets would form from. As a result, the planets that might form there may ultimately be carbon-poor. (Earth itself is considered carbon-poor.)
      “This is profoundly different from the composition we see in disks around solar-type stars, where oxygen bearing molecules like water and carbon dioxide dominate,” added team member Inga Kamp, also of the University of Groningen. “This object establishes that these are a unique class of objects.”
      “It’s incredible that we can detect and quantify the amount of molecules that we know well on Earth, such as benzene, in an object that is more than 600 light-years away,” added team member Agnés Perrin of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France.
      Next, the science team intends to expand their study to a larger sample of such disks around very low-mass stars to develop their understanding of how common or exotic such carbon-rich terrestrial planet-forming regions are. “The expansion of our study will also allow us to better understand how these molecules can form,” explained team member and principal investigator of the MINDS program, Thomas Henning, of the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy in Germany. “Several features in the Webb data are also still unidentified, so more spectroscopy is required to fully interpret our observations.”
      This work also highlights the crucial need for scientists to collaborate across disciplines. The team notes that these results and the accompanying data can contribute towards other fields including theoretical physics, chemistry, and astrochemistry, to interpret the spectra and to investigate new features in this wavelength range.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
      Downloads
      Right click any image to save it or open a larger version in a new tab/window via the browser’s popup menu.
      View/Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
      Media Contacts
      Laura Betz – laura.e.betz@nasa.gov, Rob Gutro – rob.gutro@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Christine Pulliam – cpulliam@stsci.edu
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
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      Details
      Last Updated Jun 06, 2024 Editor Stephen Sabia Contact Laura Betz laura.e.betz@nasa.gov Related Terms
      Astrophysics Exoplanet Science Exoplanets James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Missions Planetary Nebulae Planetary Science Planets Science & Research Studying Exoplanets The Universe View the full article
    • By NASA
      ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Adamo (Stockholm University) and the FEAST JWST team The James Webb Space Telescope observed “starburst” galaxy NGC 4449, seen in this image released on May 29, 2024. Starbursts are intense periods of star formation usually concentrated at a galaxy’s core, but NGC 4449’s activity is much more widespread — likely due to past interactions with its galactic neighbors. Astronomers can study this galaxy to look into the past: NGC 4449 is similar to early star-forming galaxies, which also grew by merging with other systems.
      See more Webb images from this year.
      Image Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Adamo (Stockholm University) and the FEAST JWST team
      View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      Image: Using the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, scientists have found a record-breaking galaxy observed only 290 million years after the big bang.
      Over the last two years, scientists have used the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to explore what astronomers refer to as Cosmic Dawn – the period in the first few hundred million years after the big bang where the first galaxies were born. These galaxies provide vital insight into the ways in which the gas, stars, and black holes were changing when the universe was very young. In October 2023 and January 2024, an international team of astronomers used Webb to observe galaxies as part of the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES) programme. Using Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph), scientists obtained a spectrum of a record-breaking galaxy observed only two hundred and ninety million years after the big bang. This corresponds to a redshift of about 14, which is a measure of how much a galaxy’s light is stretched by the expansion of the Universe.
      This infrared image from Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) was captured as part of the JADES programme. The NIRCam data was used to determine which galaxies to study further with spectroscopic observations. One such galaxy, JADES-GS-z14-0 (shown in the pullout), was determined to be at a redshift of 14.32 (+0.08/-0.20), making it the current record-holder for the most distant known galaxy. This corresponds to a time less than 300 million years after the big bang.
      In the background image, blue represents light at 0.9, 1.15, and 1.5 microns (filters F090W + F115W + F150W), green is 2.0 and 2.77 microns (F200W + F277W), and red is 3.56, 4.1, and 4.44 microns (F356W + F410M + F444W). The pullout image shows light at 0.9 and 1.15 microns (F090W + F115W) as blue, 1.5 and 2.0 microns (F150W + F200W) as green, and 2.77 microns (F277W) as red.
      These results were captured as part of spectroscopic observations from the Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO) programme 1287, and the accompanying MIRI data as part of GTO programme 1180.
      Note: This post highlights data from Webb science in progress, which has not yet been through the peer-review process.
      [Image description: A field of thousands of small galaxies of various shapes and colors on the black background of space. A bright, foreground star with diffraction spikes is at lower left. Near the image center, a tiny white box outlines a region and two diagonal lines lead to a box in the upper right. Within the box is a banana-shaped blob that is blueish-red in one half and distinctly red in the other half. An arrow points to the redder portion and is labeled “JADES GS z 14 – 0”.]
      Release on esawebb.org
      View the full article
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