NASA’s new space telescope is in the home stretch of testing, with science observations expected to begin in July, astronomers said Monday.

The James Webb Space Telescope beamed back the latest test pictures of a neighboring satellite galaxy, and the results are stunning when compared with images taken by NASA’s previous infrared observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope. Each of the 18 mirror segments on the new telescope is bigger than the single one on Spitzer.

“It’s not until you see the kind of image that it delivers that you internalize and go ‘wow!'” said University of Arizona’s Marcia Rieke, chief scientist for Webb’s near-infrared camera. “Just think of what we’re going to learn.”

Launched last December, the $10 billion Webb is the largest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever sent into space. It will seek light emitted by the first stars and galaxies close to 14 billion years ago, and keep a sharp lookout for possible signs of life.

Scientists are keeping the identity of Webb’s first official target a secret.

Positioned 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, Webb is considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

This combination of images provided by NASA on Monday shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of the This combination of images provided by NASA on Monday shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, seen by the retired Spitzer Space Telescope, left, and the new James Webb Space Telescope Milky Way, seen by the retired Spitzer Space Telescope, left, and the new James Webb Space Telescope.

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Alice is the Chief Editor with relevant experience of three years, Alice has founded Galaxy Reporters. She has a keen interest in the field of science. She is the pillar behind the in-depth coverages of Science news. She has written several papers and high-level documentation.

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