Administration

Biden, NASA unveil first full-color Webb image, ‘looking back more than 13 billion years’

President Biden on Monday revealed the first full-color image from the James Webb Space Telescope, the deepest view of the universe ever captured.

“This is the oldest documented light in the history of the universe from 13 billion — let me say that again, 13 billion — years ago,” Biden said, introducing the highest-resolution images yet of the infrared universe.

He called the unveiling of these images “a historic moment for science and technology, for astronomy and space exploration, for America and all of humanity.” The rest of the images will be released at 10:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

NASA unveiled the image on a screen at the White House, to applause from those assembled.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the image shows “one little speck of the universe” and includes galaxies shining around others whose light has been bent.

“We’re getting our first glimpse — as you said, Mr. President, we’re looking back more than 13 billion years. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, and that light that you’re seeing on one of those little specks has been traveling for over 13 billion years,” he said.

He added that the other images go back about 13.5 billion years, which is almost “to the beginning,” considering the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old.

Nelson said that images from the telescope are “so precise” that they can show whether planets are habitable.

“Whoa,” Biden responded.

“We are going to be able to answer questions that we don’t even know what the questions are yet,” Nelson said.

“It’s amazing,” Biden said.

On Tuesday, a formal reveal of the other images will be broadcast live online, and viewing events are scheduled nationwide to mark the occasion.

Vice President Harris, chairwoman of the National Space Council, said that this telescope allows the U.S. to “look to the sky with new understanding” and called it “one of humanity’s great engineering achievements.”

“Now, we enter a new phase of scientific discovery. Building on the legacy of Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope allows us to see deeper into space than ever before and in stunning clarity. It will enhance what we know about the origins of our universe, our solar system and, possibly, life itself,” Harris said.

The James Webb Space Telescope launched in December in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Biden said on Monday that the partnership symbolizes “the relentless spirit of American ingenuity” and shows how the U.S. leads the world. He also called for more federal investments in science and technology.

Webb’s advanced technology has allowed it to see through time with infrared captures of exoplanet atmospheres as well as to discover new stars and to explore faraway planets.

Tags Biden Bill Nelson Images of the universe James Webb James Webb Space Telescope NASA Space exploration Webb
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