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are we alone in the universe? Scarlin Hernandez responds

Six months after taking off, the James Webb telescope began to show the world never-before-seen images of space. These first shots represent a new era in astronomy, which has allowed us to see from the ground the depth of the universe.

To find out in detail what these images represent, we spoke with Scarlet Hernandezthe Dominican space engineer which, together with a large team from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has developed codes that are part of the systems that command and control the James Webb telescopethe most advanced that has been built to date.

DL—What do the first images revealed by the telescope represent?

SH. The first images presented by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris show a deep field of a cluster of galaxies, and the truth is that it is the deepest image we have taken of the universe to date. In that single image there are thousands and thousands of galaxies. So that you can understand, if from here on earth you look up at the sky and extend your arm and point towards this area it would be the size of a grain of sand.

So it’s super small. 100 years ago, we thought that we were the only galaxy that existed, and now we see with this telescope that the truth is that the universe is super full, it is not a great emptiness as we believed or thought, and personally, when I saw these images for the first Once in my head there was no longer any doubt that we cannot be alone in the universe, that is practically impossible. And I want to emphasize that this is my opinion, not NASA’s.

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DL—What were you able to discover inside these galaxies?

SH. The second image is a spectroscopy of a galaxy that is also 3.1 billion years away, and in that galaxy we were able to detect hydrogen, neon, and oxygen, which we know are elements that exist here on our earth.

Also the exoplanet spectrum, which we first took the most detailed measurements to date of transiting light from an exoplanet.

We were also able to analyze the structure of the exoplanet’s atmosphere and it points to water vapor, so we could see in this exoplanet that it definitely has water, and this ability is going to help us in the search for habitable planets in the coming years.

DL—What does the black hole in the image represent?

SH. We can see a black hole, which at first we thought we were the only galaxy with a black hole in the center, and now we think that all galaxies have a black hole in the center. We also think that clusters of galaxies like these were quite common in the early universe.

When heated material fell into them, it could have fueled black holes, very energetic ones, and that’s something we’re studying.

““Now I am more sure that with the telescope we will be able to find things that we did not know existed””Scarlet HernandezSpace engineer at NASA

DL—Can the telescope detect life on other planets?

SH. We have shown and you can see in the other images that we can indeed study the composition of objects, specifically the physical and chemical properties of the atmospheres of those planets or planets similar to ours and if the day ever comes that we see a sign of life, it will be something that it will take a long time to verify because it will be something new for us, something indigenous that we have never seen. With the capacity of the telescope, I think so, but the truth is that we have never found life, we don’t know how it will show up in the detectors. No one knows what that looks like. We won’t know what it is if we find it.

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DL—When will we be able to see new images of the universe again?

SH. Every week more images and more data from the telescope will come out. Now I am more sure that with this telescope we will be able to find things that we did not know existed.

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*Write your concerns, suggestions and comments to [email protected]

Bachelor of Social Communication, with a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Puerto Rico. She currently coordinates the Diario Libre USA section, an expert on issues of the Dominican diaspora and the US.

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