An image taken at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland shows what appear as ghostly figures surrounding the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
The photo may initially appear creepy but NASA photographer Chris Gunn said that the image actually shows scientists and technicians at work, all of whom are alive and well at the time the photo was taken.
The image captured what happens when lights are turned out in the clean room where the James Webb telescope is currently housed. NASA said that the staff who were inspecting the telescope and its golden mirrors were conducting a lights out inspection at Goddard's Spacecraft Systems Development and Integration Facility (SSDIF) at the time the photo was captured.
Lights Out Inspection
The lights out inspection was conducted to check the telescope after a vibration and acoustic testing. The contamination control engineer used bright flashlight and ultraviolet lights to look for any contamination on the telescope. This method is done since evidence of contamination is easier to find in the dark.
The eerie outcome of the image has something to do with technology, Gunn said.
"The people have a ghostly appearance because it's a long exposure," explained Gunn who left the shutter of the camera open for longer than normal so the movements of the technicians would appear as a blur. The photographer also used a special light painting technique to light up the telescope's primary mirror.
Successor Of The Hubble Space Telescope
The James Webb telescope is set to be the successor the Hubble Space Telescope, which, despite its age, continues to make significant scientific observations.
In January this year, Hubble captured two galaxies about 1 billion light-years away from Earth colliding into each other. It also detected comets diving toward a young star about 95 light-years away, a phenomenon that offers insights into what happened during the infancy of the solar system when comets pelted into our planet and into other inner bodies of the solar system.
James Webb Telescope
NASA said that the James Webb telescope, which measures four stories high and whose size is equal to that of a tennis court, will be launched in 2018 aboard the Ariane 5 rocket of the European Space Agency from French Guiana.
Over the next six months after launch, different parts of the telescope are expected to become operational. The telescope may also start transmitting back photos to Earth at this time.
Scientists hope that the telescope will unveil many of the universe's secret including the potential existence of alien life in extraterrestrial worlds including those in the newly discovered TRAPPIST-1 star system.
"JWST will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide," NASA said of the new telescope. "It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System."