Researchers at NASA, the ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency have spent the past several months getting the James Webb Telescope ready to explore the furthest reaches of space. Wednesday, the group announced the space-faring scope will finally capture its first batch of pictures. The group will then release those full-color images and spectroscopic data on July 12th.
"As we near the end of preparing the observatory for science, we are on the precipice of an incredibly exciting period of discovery about our universe. The release of Webb's first full-color images will offer a unique moment for us all to stop and marvel at a view humanity has never seen before," Webb program scientist Eric Smith said in a NASA press release. "These images will be the culmination of decades of dedication, talent, and dreams – but they will also be just the beginning."
Hailed as the most complex observatory ever launched into space, researchers and engineers have spent half of the past year aligning and calibrating various tools on the telescope to get it ready for primetime.
Though NASA isn't quite sure yet just what images will be returned, researchers are still setting expectations high. "Of course, there are things we are expecting and hoping to see, but with a new telescope and this new high-resolution infrared data, we just won't know until we see it, STScI's lead science visuals developer Joseph DePasquale added in the release.
In addition to the imagery, the Webb Telescope will help scientists examine the furthest reaches of space, providing data that wasn't previously available.
"Our goals for Webb's first images and data are both to showcase the telescope's powerful instruments and to preview the science mission to come," added astronomer Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at STScI. "They are sure to deliver a long-awaited 'wow' for astronomers and the public."
In total, the Webb Telescope cost around $10 billion to develop and launch into space and took more than two decades to build. It will work in tandem with the Hubble Telescope, which was launched in 1990.