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James Webb will reveal the first images: a Colombian scientist explains its significance

Columbian physicists focused their studies on stars.

Photo: Maria Claudia Ramirez

A new window opened on an unknown corner of the universe on December 25, 2021, when it opened James Webb Telescope, the best tool ever created to explore the universe. It is the first space telescope to detect light distant galaxies The universe formed approximately 13.5 billion years ago. And although it is a project promoted by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), these entities have opened up the option for research groups around the world to be able to use this telescope for a few minutes. advance their studies. Of the more than a thousand proposals submitted by scientists, only 30% were approved, including the proposal of Colombian Maria Claudia Ramirez.

Ramirez, a physicist at the University of Los Andes, admits she has been clear since school that she wanted to study a related field. “From physics I like to be able to understand what is happening around us through mathematical equations. It is wonderful,” he says. Arrival in Astrophysics It was thanks to a sabbatical course in Mexico, which is why he pursued his master’s degree in Germany, at the University of Heidelberg. Then he studied for a doctorate at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and focused his studies on stars, especially those that have the ability, due to their large content of matter, to pump a large amount of energy into the space that surrounds them. ..(You can also read: What will be the first images of the James Webb telescope? NASA provides details)

Although in his last years of research he focused on studying the birth of these powerful stars, for his proposal for observations using a space telescope James Webb Her analytical approach has completely changed: she and her staff will no longer focus on stars are born, but in the birth of solar systems. In an interview with viewerRamirez explains the main goals and expectations of his project, and the significance of the first high-resolution color images of the telescope to be published by NASA. The deepest image of our universe ever taken is expected to emerge.

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What is the significance of these photos, which will be published on July 12?

These will be the first images we’ll see of the universe, a more unknown part. The James Webb Telescope is the largest we’ve ever launched into space, and it detects in infrared wavelengths, so it’s able to look at things we haven’t been able to do with ground-based or other space telescopes, such as Hubble.

What might those pictures reveal?

Five images will be shown, including one, for example, that can show us a deep field with galaxies in the background. in case if James Webb, unlike Hubble, we will see galaxies very far away, because they are much larger and are observed in the infrared. We will be able to practically see the first galaxies that formed in the universe. I hope they show us that.

NASA recently revealed the objects in the universe that it will publish pictures of. What does it consist of?

The Carina Nebula It’s where you can see how stars are born. WASP-96b (spectrum) is a planet that, when passing in front of a star, allows us to see the composition of its atmosphere. The Southern Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula that remains after a star dies. It’s a cloud of gas expanding around the dying star. The Stefan Quintet is related to the evolution of galaxies. It’s a group of galaxies Too compact and some of them interact. Finally, SMACS 0723 is another galaxy cluster that acts as a magnifying glass to see many fainter, farther and back galaxies.

Initial images taken by James Webb were published in May. They have already provided some clues.

So far there is only one image of one of the calibration tools. Although it’s a calibrated image and not processed to show the faint elements, which in this case would be the distant galaxies, it does show a really nice amount of detail and some very distant galaxies, things that we haven’t yet discovered. If this could be known from the calibration images, I think 12 images would be amazing and would show us things in the universe that we never imagined existed. (You may be interested in: The James Webb Space Telescope impacted, but it’s still operational)

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What can we expect from these photos?

James Webb’s mission objectives can be divided into three. The first may be the search for galaxies that formed after .the great explosion, which is the deep field that we will be able to observe. The second is to understand how galaxies evolved from the beginning of the universe until now, and this can also be achieved through deep field imaging, but there are also goals related to the formation of planets. So I think that among these first images we can also expect, for example, a Detecting a planet about a star. These discoveries are made because when a planet passes in front of the star, it blocks some of the star’s light, and by seeing this change in the star’s light intensity we can detect planets. The third goal has to do with star formation. Stars form behind dark clouds of gas and dust at wavelengths we can’t see with our eyes, which is what we call the optical spectrum. Using James Webb, we will be able to see the clouds of dust and gas that cover the star formation process. Pictures will be shown to us for a moment star formation.

What is your contribution to James Webb’s notes?

I am the principal investigator on a project in which we have approximately thirty scientists, mostly from Europe and the United States. The goal of our program is to use the tool called Mary (mid-infrared instrument). It contains sensitive detectors that allow it to see light from distant galaxies, newly forming stars, faintly visible comets, and objects in the sky. Kuiper belt. This instrument looks more into the mid-infrared to understand the impact of extreme environments on planet formation. Planets are formed around stars like the sun, just as our solar system formed around the sun, but we know, or believe, that these stars formed in environments surrounded by stars that we call massive stars, which produce a quantity of very strong radiant energy, which is capable of destroying the disks that form around those stars.

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Why is it important to understand the formation of planets?

To see if the systems formed in conditions similar to our Sun. And that’s what we’re going to do: try describing the tweaks; Call protoplanetary discs, which are disks around stars in which planets later form around massive stars that have very strong radiation. We think they have some influence on the records. It’s the first time we’ll be able to see the effect of massive stars on protoplanetary disks. (We recommend: A perfectly sharp star: this is the first photo taken by James Webb)

When do these scientific observations begin?

In July they started doing Scientific notes And we’re very fortunate, because our observation window – the timeline they gave us – tells us that it will be taken between mid-July and September. So anytime in the next few weeks we can start seeing our first data.

What are your expectations from the scientific observations of your working group?

We’re insanely preparing, trying to be ready when the data comes in. We hope to be able to understand or get the first clues about the true impact of massive stars on solar systems, like ours, in order to begin to understand how these disks are affected, as planets like Earth are born. I think what we all expect the most on the team is the unexpected, because we have models that predict what star effect About these disks where planets form, but we are sure that James Webb, being very new and helping us advance a lot in science, will show us unexpected things. We’re all waiting for that: what we can’t even imagine.