James Webb Space Telescope's first images should inspire humanity to do great things – Scotsman comment

If wars, scandals, all manner of political machinations and seemingly endless crises have left you feeling decidedly jaded, then the first, extraordinary images produced by the James Webb Space Telescope may provide a much-needed morale boost.

This image, known as Webb's First Deep Field, is the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date (Picture: Nasa, ESA, CSA, and STScI)
This image, known as Webb's First Deep Field, is the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date (Picture: Nasa, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

The sheer beauty of the natural world on a vast scale is the first thing that hits you, but it is the realisation of what the images mean that is the clincher; these are so much more than just pretty pictures.

Bill Nelson, administrator of Nasa, said of one image showing the most distant galaxies ever seen: “We are looking back more than 13 billion years… we are going back almost to the beginning.” And when he says “the beginning”, he means of the Universe – of everything.

A joint venture between Nasa, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb telescope offers hope of providing answers to some of the most profound questions in science.

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First James Webb Space Telescope image shows universe in spectacular detail

And it might just lead to the discovery of signs of life on planets outside our solar system. In addition to taking photographs, Webb can analyse light by splitting it into its component colours. After examining a planet about 1,150 light-years from Earth, called Wasp-96b, scientists were able to establish that its atmosphere contains water vapour.

To be able to know something like that, about a planet so far away, seems near-miraculous. It tells us that human beings, working together, can achieve so much.

If we can find a way to gaze into the dawn of creation, then surely there is no worldly problem so difficult that we cannot solve it. All humanity should be inspired by this wonderful achievement.

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The edge of a young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula, was imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope (Picture: handout/Nasa/AFP via Getty Images)
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