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Biden unveils first image from James Webb Space Telescope

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President Joe Biden on Monday unveiled the first image from the James Webb Space Telescope which NASA administrator Bill Nelson said depicts "galaxies that are shining around other galaxies whose light has been bent." Photo courtesy NASA
President Joe Biden on Monday unveiled the first image from the James Webb Space Telescope which NASA administrator Bill Nelson said depicts "galaxies that are shining around other galaxies whose light has been bent." Photo courtesy NASA

July 11 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Monday unveiled an image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, the first from the spacecraft's highly anticipated initial group of images since NASA completed alignment and testing of its mirrors.

The image, shown during a preview event at the White House, depicts "galaxies that are shining around other galaxies whose light has been bent" NASA administrator Bill Nelson said.

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"You're seeing just a small, little portion of the universe," he said.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris received a briefing from NASA officials during the event, and previewed the first images from the Webb Space Telescope, which are "the highest-resolution images of the infrared universe ever captured," according to the White House.

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The preview came ahead of the full release of the first group of pictures taken by the telescope -- a joint venture by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and European Space Agency -- scheduled for Tuesday morning.

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Biden said that the release of the images "will be a historic moment for science and technology for astronomy and space exploration, for America and all of humanity."

"As an international collaboration, this telescope embodies how America leads the world not by the example of our power but by the power of our example," Biden said.

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"A partnership with others -- it symbolizes the relentless spirit of American ingenuity and it shows what we can achieve, what more we can discover. Not just about distant places but about our very own planet and climate," Biden said.

The Webb telescope's first images and data have been highly anticipated since since it launched with infrared technology that is expected to help shed new light on distant galaxies and the early universe.

The telescope is "the world's largest and most powerful space telescope" ever launched, according to NASA.

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Nelson said the telescope is so powerful it will allow NASA to observe the chemical composition of other planets and determine if they are habitable.

"When you look at something as big as this is, we are going to be able to answer questions that we don't even know what the questions are yet," he said.

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On Thursday, a telescope test of a steady lock on a distant target such as a galaxy or star captured six bright stars and distant galaxies in an image. Scientists said the test image was "among the deepest images of the universe ever taken," and a preview of what's to come this week.

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"From the beginning of history humans have looked up to the night sky with wonder and thanks to dedicated people who have been working for decades in engineering and on scientific marvels, we can look to the sky with new understanding," said Harris.

Biden also called on the federal government to provide greater investments in science and technology than it has in the past.

"These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things and remind the American people, especially our children, that there's nothing beyond our capacity," he said.

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"We can see possibilities no one has ever seen before, we can go places no one has ever gone before."

Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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