“We’re looking back more than 13 billion years,” he said. “That light that you are seeing has been traveling for over 13 billion years, and by the way, we’re going back farther. This is just the first image. They’re going back about thirteen-and-a-half billion years. And since we know the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we’re going back almost to the beginning.”
NASA plans to release additional “first light” images Tuesday, photos designed to showcase Webb’s ability to chart the details of stellar evolution, from starbirth to death by supernova, to study how galaxies form, merge and evolve and to probe the chemical composition of atmospheres around planets orbiting other stars.
This initial Webb deep field released Monday promises to rewrite the astronomy books yet again, providing the data needed to fill in many of the major gaps in the history of the universe, perhaps even providing the framework to determine when — and how — the first massive stars formed, exploded and seeded the cosmos with the heavy elements that make life possible.