As NASA releases new images of deep space, UW-La Crosse planetarium staffers say this is just the beginning

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — NASA released stunning new images Tuesday morning that show new depths of the universe. Staff at UW-La Crosse’s planetarium say these mark a special new beginning for astronomical discoveries.

The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed the deepest look into space yet, with shots of galaxies, stars and planets we have never seen before.

“As you look out in space, you’re looking back in time. And the further back you look, the further back in time you’re seeing,” said Bob Allen, planetarium director at UW-La Crosse.

In the planetarium, they have their eyes on the skies, too.

“These people want to come and keep up with the latest and spread the word to them. The planetarium has the ability to try and do that for them,” Allen said.

They watch the skies — both real, and projected.

“It’s pretty amazing when the lights are shut down and the stars are up,” Thomas Thompson, a volunteer at the planetarium, said.

Allen, who taught before he became planetarium director, helps people see the stars in the basement of Cowley Hall.

“I’ve heard people say ‘wow’ a lot,” Thompson said.

Allen says what we’re seeing is around 12 billion years back.

It’s a much clearer picture, close to the theorized age of the universe: 13.8 billion years.

“Everyone’s excited about these pictures and they are, in their own right, beautiful and unbelievable, but just wait for the scientific information to come along in the future months and years,” Allen said.

These new images are only the beginning, he said.

“So you compare what you saw vs what the observations vs. the theoretician … By putting those two together, you’re able to say the theory works as it is, or we have to throw it out completely or modify it,” Allen said.

This makes way for billions more discoveries.

The planetarium presents most of its programs during the school year.

If you’re interested, you can join the sky observing sessions every month.

The next session will be at the Galesville Schools Observatory on July 29.

More information can be found on the planetarium’s website.

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