On July 12, NASA posted the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)’s first photos, depicting various astronomical objects. Since then, the telescope has continued to post incredible images from both our satellite and beyond.
The JWST differs from other space telescopes, which usually orbit close to the Earth. Instead, the JWST, which first launched on December 25, 2021, is one million miles away from the Earth and can see as far as 13.6 billion years away.
For instance, the JWST can see nine times further than the Hubble Space Telescope. It also takes pictures 9 times as big as its predecessor.
The JWST was created by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to capture images and spectres (atoms, energy and shapes) of astronomical objects. Scientists believe the JWST will photograph the first stars and galaxies created after the Big Bang, as well as exoplanets and their atmospheres.
The three creators of the telescope worked on its first pictures and released them to the public. In addition to providing photos, the telescope confirmed the existence of over five thousand exoplanets. However, its capabilities do not allow for further study on the new planets.
The first image was a planetary nebula (shells of dust and gas expelled from a dying star) officially called NGC 3132, or the “Southern Ring Nebula.” This photo provides scientists with more clues into the fate of stars at the end of their life cycles.
The next picture was the cosmic dance of Stephan’s Quintet. The title stems from French astronomer Édouard Stephan’s observations of five “dancing” galaxies in 1877. The image shows the galaxies interacting with one another and reveals a big black hole on the top galaxy.
The JWST’s first photo shows one of the oldest galaxies ever seen by astronomers and humans in general.
On Aug. 1, 2022, Nasa released another of JWST's images: The Cartwheel Galaxy. The Galaxy is the result of a collision between two galaxies that occurred about 400 million years ago. What remains is an inner ring and an outer ring, giving the galaxy merger the appearance of a spoked wheel.
On Aug. 22, NASA released the latest set of James Webb images, this time of Jupiter and its rings. The pictures show Jupiter in never-before-seen detail, and accompany other highly-detailed data from the telescope. Together, this will allow scientists to learn more about the planet’s composition and chemistry, as well as better study the dynamics between Jupiter, its moons and its rings.
(Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt.)
Moving forward, NASA scientists aim to continue releasing photos taken by the JWST. “We’re making discoveries and we really haven’t even started trying yet,” NASA scientist Eric Smith said.