Last month 60 Minutes had a piece on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), titled The Origin of Everything, that provided viewers with more amazing images. I recommend the episode. I also plan to watch a few more times myself.
For a taste of the episode, here is Matt Mountain, who heads up JWST’s operations as president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, discussing the speckled images captured at the very start as engineers used a star to align the telescope’s 18 mirrors.
Matt Mountain: These were not artifacts from the detector. These were not strange stars. The whole of the sky was filled with galaxies. There was no empty sky. And that’s when I went, “This telescope’s going to be phenomenal.”
Scott Pelley: No empty sky? What do you mean by that?
Matt Mountain: On almost every image we’re taking now, we see galaxies everywhere. I mean, we took a simple picture of a planet in our own system, Neptune. You know, it was this beautiful orb just sitting there and we saw some rings. In the background are galaxies again. It tells us that our universe is filled with galaxies. We knew this theoretically but when you go out to the night sky, we’re used to saying, “Well, look up at the night sky, we see those stars.” We can no longer say that. We now have to say, “Look up at the night sky and there are galaxies everywhere.”
Scott Pelley: We call it space because we thought there was nothing out there.
Matt Mountain: There is no empty sky with James Webb. That is what we have discovered.
You can watch the episode here.