July 12, 2022

It is the product of decades of planning: a massive, space-based infrared telescope to follow in the footsteps of the Hubble Space telescope. 

Today, NASA, along with its partners the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency unveiled the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). 

Designed to uncover the secrets of stars created just after the Big Bang and provide new details about far-off rocky exo-planets, the JWST is the largest space telescope ever launched. 

The release of these pictures has been one of the most highly-anticipated scientific events of the last several decades. Take a look. 

The James Webb Telescope produced this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.The combined mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying more distant galaxies, including some seen when the universe was less than one billion years old. Source: NASA

An image of the transmission spectrum of exoplanet WASP 96-b. NASA’s JWST has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star.

The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away. Source: NASA

Two stars, which are locked in a tight orbit, shape the local landscape.The dimmer star at the center of this scene has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions. JWST has revealed for the first time that this star is cloaked in dust. Source: NASA

A galaxy group known as “Stephan’s Quintet,” a visual grouping of five galaxies, JWST’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. Images of galaxy clusters like this will help scientists understand the rate at which supermassive black holes feed and grow. Source: NASA

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” is actually the edge of a nearby stellar nursery called NGC 3324 at the northwest corner of the Carina Nebula. So-called mountains — some towering about 7 light-years high — are speckled with glittering, young stars imaged in infrared light. Source: NASA 

If you’d like to see these images in even more detail, NASA has made these images available for download here

Related Links:
If you want to learn more about the technology that went into the James Webb Space Telescope, IEEE Spectrum has you covered with a series it called “Inside the Universe Machine


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