Webb's First Deep Field (NIRISS Emission Spectra)

 Webb's First Deep Field (NIRISS Emission Spectra)

Want to go on a galactic treasure hunt? Data known as spectra from NASA’s Webb Telescope make it easy to find – and match up – cosmic prizes!

At far left is a near-infrared image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. A group of massive galaxies below and to the right of the bright central star have distorted, magnified, and mirrored many galaxies in this field.

By quickly examining the image at left by eye, it becomes clearer that one arc may be made up of two similar-looking galaxies. Their bright central regions match, despite their stretched appearances. These may be lensed galaxies – one galaxy that is mirrored in a second location. Are they the same? Researchers can’t be sure from the image alone – more data are needed to confirm a match.

Scientists do this by gathering spectra, which spread light out so they can fully examine an object’s makeup. Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), which gathers spectra of every object in any field it observes, was pointed at the galaxy cluster to gather more detail. A segment of the NIRISS grism image (an instrument that has a grating, or stair steps, on a prism), at center, shows how ionized oxygen and atomic hydrogen emission lines are distributed along the arc.

Next, the spectra from each of these two galaxies were plotted as graphs, shown at right, to reveal their compositions. The graphs, known as spectra, match, which indicates that these arcs are mirror images of the same galaxy. Webb’s spectra from NIRISS also quickly proved that light from both galaxies was emitted 9.3 billion years ago, further confirming they are one and the same.

Using Webb’s NIRISS is like opening a treasure chest overflowing with spectra. For example, this instrument can disperse the spectra along the image vertically and horizontally. Researchers can use both modes to untangle which lines match each source.

Every object’s image can be transformed into spectra like the two shown above. So even if researchers aren’t intending to study a particular galaxy in the field, they may make a surprise discovery.

For a full array of Webb’s first images and spectra, including downloadable files, please visit: https://webbtelescope.org/news/first-images 

NIRISS was contributed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The instrument was designed and built by Honeywell in collaboration with the Université de Montréal and the National Research Council Canada.




About The Object
Constellation Volans
About The Data
Data Description This image was created with Webb data from proposal . It is part of Webb Early Release Observations. The Early Release Observations and associated materials were developed, executed, and compiled by the ERO production team: Jaclyn Barrientes, Claire Blome, Hannah Braun, Matthew Brown, Margaret Carruthers, Dan Coe, Joseph DePasquale, Nestor Espinoza, Macarena Garcia Marin, Karl Gordon, Alaina Henry, Leah Hustak, Andi James, Ann Jenkins, Anton Koekemoer, Stephanie LaMassa, David Law, Alexandra Lockwood, Amaya Moro-Martin, Susan Mullally, Alyssa Pagan, Dani Player, Klaus Pontoppidan, Charles Proffitt, Christine Pulliam, Leah Ramsay, Swara Ravindranath, Neill Reid, Massimo Robberto, Elena Sabbi, Leonardo Ubeda.  The EROs were also made possible by the foundational efforts and support from the JWST instruments, STScI planning and scheduling, Data Management teams, and Office of Public Outreach.
Instrument NIRISS
About The Object
Object Name A name or catalog number that astronomers use to identify an astronomical object.
Object Description The type of astronomical object.
R.A. Position Right ascension – analogous to longitude – is one component of an object's position.
Dec. Position Declination – analogous to latitude – is one component of an object's position.
Constellation One of 88 recognized regions of the celestial sphere in which the object appears.
Distance The physical distance from Earth to the astronomical object. Distances within our solar system are usually measured in Astronomical Units (AU). Distances between stars are usually measured in light-years. Interstellar distances can also be measured in parsecs.
Dimensions The physical size of the object or the apparent angle it subtends on the sky.
About The Data
Data Description
  • Proposal: A description of the observations, their scientific justification, and the links to the data available in the science archive.
  • Science Team: The astronomers who planned the observations and analyzed the data. "PI" refers to the Principal Investigator.
Instrument The science instrument used to produce the data.
Exposure Dates The date(s) that the telescope made its observations and the total exposure time.
Filters The camera filters that were used in the science observations.
About The Image
Image Credit The primary individuals and institutions responsible for the content.
Publication Date The date and time the release content became public.
Color Info A brief description of the methods used to convert telescope data into the color image being presented.
Orientation The rotation of the image on the sky with respect to the north pole of the celestial sphere.