Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Stunning Success for Science as First Webb Telescope Images Released.

President Biden Reveals First Image from NASA’s Webb Telescope | NASA
Webb’s first deep field is galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and it is teeming with thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
While fundamentalist religions based on Bronze Age superstitious ignorance still struggle to reconcile their beliefs with scientific realities, science has progressed to the point where we now can take photographs of deep space, revealing details of which the superstitious founders of religions would never have even dreamed.

The first images from NASA's newly commissioned Webb telescope were released yesterday by President Joe Biden. They show the teeming thousands of galaxies in the galaxy cluster, SMACS 0723. Each of these thousands of galaxies in this one cluster, like the Milky Way galaxy, will contain trillions of suns, many of which will have orbital planets similar to those in the Solar System. This image is even more astounding when you realise that the area of the sky it shows, as seen from Earth, would be covered by a single grain of sand, held at arm’s length!

Given what we know of how quickly self-replicating organisms got started on Earth - in under half a billion years and maybe even sooner, it is almost inconceivable that some of those trillions of planetary systems in those thousands of other galaxies in that one cluster won't have living organisms evolving and diversifying according to basic laws of physics and chemistry, like they are on Earth.

A biblical view of the universe as described in Genesis

Source: BioLogos
And yet fundamentalist religions still behave as though one species - humans - was the intended outcome of a magical process that placed Earth at the centre of not just the solar system, but the entire universe. A universe that runs on magic and which was all popped into existence, fully formed, from nothing, simply by a magic superman saying the right magic words.

Some elements of those beliefs, for example, the notion of a magic place about the sky where dead people can go if they have obeyed all the rules the priesthood tell us to obey, and another magical place below the earth where dead people go to if they haven’t obeyed all the rules, is based on the parochial notion of a flat Earth, with the sky being some sort of physical barrier over it.

Read more: For an example of the mental gymnastics needed to reconcile Genesis with modern science, read The Firmament of Genesis 1 is Solid but That’s Not the Point

From the NASA press release announcing the first of these images from the Webb Telescope:
President Joe Biden released the first full-color image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Monday, during a public event at the White House in Washington. This first image showcases the powerful capabilities of the Webb mission, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things, and remind the American people – especially our children – that there’s nothing beyond our capacity. We can see possibilities no one has ever seen before. We can go places no one has ever gone before.

President Joe Biden

Webb's First Deep Field is not only the first full-color image from the James Webb Space Telescope, it’s the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe, so far. This image covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. It’s just a tiny sliver of the vast universe. This mission was made possible by human ingenuity – the incredible NASA Webb team and our international partners at the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Webb is just the start of what we can accomplish in the future when we work together for the benefit of humanity.

Bill Nelson.
NASA Administrator
Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.

This deep field, taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), is a composite made from images at different wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours – achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope’s deepest fields, which took weeks.

The image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. The combined mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying much more distant galaxies behind it. Webb’s NIRCam has brought those distant galaxies into sharp focus – they have tiny, faint structures that have never been seen before, including star clusters and diffuse features. Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the galaxies’ masses, ages, histories, and compositions, as Webb seeks the earliest galaxies in the universe.

This record-setting deep field provides a preview of the full set of Webb’s first images, which will be released at 10:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 12, in a live broadcast on NASA Television.

The images will be available at: https://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages

The fact that this image shows that galaxy cluster as it was about 4.6 billion years ago is because the light from them has taken 4.6 billion years to get to where the Webb Telescope is orbiting Earth. It shows that part of the Universe as it was, shortly before Earth was born out of the accretion disc thrown out as our second or third generation sun condensed out of the cloud of gas and dust produced by earlier suns which went supernova as their hydrogen supply ran out, in this tiny corner of the Milky Way galaxy.

Read more: For a brief overview of the formation of suns and planetary systems, see the first 4 chapters of my book, What Makes You So Special: From the Big Bang to You.

With being so out of touch with reality and so rooted in the childish superstitions of hunter-gatherers and primitive pastoralists from the fearful infancy of our species, the wonder isn't why religions are being abandoned so quickly nowadays, but that they aren't being abandoned even more quickly.

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