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Telescope’s ‘tantalizing glimpse’ of universe

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VATICAN CITY  — NASA has released the first batch of images from the James Webb Space Telescope, described as “the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built.”

Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the director of the Vatican Observatory, said the images are “a tantalizing glimpse of what we’ll be able to learn about the universe with this telescope.”

Webb’s mission is to study “every phase of 13.5 billion years of cosmic history — from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, and everything in between.”

“The science behind this telescope is our attempt to use our God-given intelligence to understand the logic of the universe,” Brother Consolmagno said. “The universe wouldn’t work if it weren’t logical. But as these images show, the universe is not only logical, it is also beautiful.

“This is God’s creation being revealed to us, and in it we can see both His astonishing power and His love of beauty.”

Pointing to the telescope’s “first spectrum of water vapor in the atmosphere of an exoplanet,” a planet that orbits a star outside the solar system, Brother Consolmagno recalled one of his Jesuit-scientist predecessors.

“It was about 150 years ago when Father Angelo Secchi put a prism in front of his telescope lens on the roof of the St. Ignatius Church in Rome, and made the first spectral measurements of the atmospheres of the planets in our own solar system,” he said. “I can only imagine how delighted he would be to see the science he pioneered applied to planets unknown to him orbiting distant stars.”

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