NASA's James Webb Space Telescope captures test image of star and ancient galaxies over 2,000 light-years away
NASA's new space telescope has gazed into the distant universe and captured a perfect vision: a spiky image of a faraway star photobombed by thousands of ancient galaxies.
- The James Webb Space Telescope captured its latest test image 1.6 million kilometres away from Earth
- Scientists hope Webb will see far back enough in time that it will only be "a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang"
- Galaxies in the background of the image are several billions of years old
The image released on Wednesday from the James Webb Space Telescope is a test shot — not an official scientific observation — to see how its 18 hexagonal mirrors worked together for a single, coordinated image taken 1.6 million kilometres away from Earth.
Officials said it had worked "better than expected".
Last month, NASA looked at a much-closer star with 18 separate images from its mirror segments.
Scientists said they were "giddy" as they watched the latest test photos arrive.
NASA's test image was aimed at a star 100 times fainter than the human eye can see, one that was 2,000 light-years away.
A light-year is nearly 9.7 trillion kilometres.
The shape of Webb's mirrors and its filters made the shimmering star look more red and spiky, but the background really stole the show.
Those galaxies are several billions of years old.
Eventually, scientists hope Webb will see so far away and back in time that it will only be "a couple hundred million years after the Big Bang", she said.
The first scientific images will not come until late June or early July.
Webb — the $US10 billion ($13.7 billion) telescope that is the successor to the nearly 32-year-old Hubble Space Telescope — blasted off from South America in December and reached its designated orbit in January.