The James Webb Space Telescope has been busy examining the furthest reaches of space since it officially went into commission earlier this month. While most pictures released by NASA and researchers to date feature higher-quality images of cosmic entities previously captured by Webb’s predecessors, the observatory has now returned the first confirmed images of the TRAPPIST-1 system.
Using data made publicly available by NASA, redditor u/arizonaskies2022 shared the image they managed to craft of the fabled system. Although it’s incredibly pixelated to the untrained eye, the photo shows the system’s star (TRAPPIST-1) using Webb’s Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS).
Located within the Aquarius constellation, scientists have long thought the system could harbor life due to some of its exoplanets exhibiting Earth-like qualities. In total, seven planets make up the system and each has fascinated researchers to the point of becoming viral sensations in and of themselves.
Webb spotted the TRAPPIST system on July 18 and the data was subsequently made public as has been the norm with other findings from the telescope. At least three of the system’s exoplanets reside within its habitable zone, meaning scientists think those planets may sustain life comparable to what’s here on Earth.
“If you think about that, this is farther than humanity has ever moved before,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson previously said of the JWST. “And we’re only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do. It’s going to explore objects in the solar system and atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, giving us clues as to whether potentially their atmospheres are similar to our own.”
“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,” astronomer Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at STScI, added of the images. “They are sure to deliver a long-awaited ‘wow’ for astronomers and the public.”