Five of the most breathtaking images from NASA’s Webb Telescope

Since launching the first photos of NASA’s new James Webb in July, a steady stream of jaw-dropping images have been released by the groundbreaking telescope.

The $10 billion James Webb Telescope, which replaced the aging Hubble Telescope and launched into space in December 2021, captured distant galaxies, blazing stars light years away and a new image of Jupiter.

Here are five of the best photos taken by James Webb to date.

South Ring Nebula

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

One of the most webcast is of the South Ring Nebula, which was among the first Webb photos released on July 12.

Webb has captured the remains of a white dwarf – the remains of a star that has burned through all of its nuclear fuel and expelled its outer shell into a planetary nebula.

The telescope collected the images in infrared light. Compared to Hubble, the James Webb Telescope can capture space in the infrared with much more power, “providing never-before-seen views of the universe,” NASA officials wrote on the agency’s website.

NASA has released an image of the South Ring Nebula in near-infrared (NIRcam) and mid-infrared (MIRcam) light, the former being closer to a visible wavelength than the normal human eye can see, which makes its images more colorful and high resolution.

The MIRcam, however, can capture objects in greater detail. For example, the mid-infrared image of the Southern Ring Nebula shows a brighter image of a bright star, shining in the background just beyond the white dwarf.

cosmic cliffs

Going through NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

Another popular image is of the cosmic cliffs, the edge of a star-forming region that NASA has likened to “steep mountains on a moonlit evening.”

The young star-forming region called NGC 3324 lies more than 7,000 light-years away in the Carina Nebula. NASA photos of this place in the universe reveal a massive gaseous cavity at the edge of NGC 3324 in a collage of orange and blue.

“The cavernous area was carved into the nebula by intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive and hot young stars located in the center of the bubble,” officials wrote on the website.

In NIRcam, viewers can see hundreds of stars hidden from the normal human eye, as well as many glittering galaxies in the background.

NGC 3324 was first recorded by astronomer James Dunlop in 1826.

cartwheel galaxy

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

This Aug. 2 photo of the Cartwheel galaxy looks like a bright red galactic Ferris wheel in space.

The Cartwheel Galaxy was formed about 400 million years ago from high-speed collisions. Webb captured it forming in a “transitional phase”, as images of the universe light years away look into the past, due to the time it takes to reach and record them.

This spiral galaxy is made up of two rings, a brighter inner ring and a colorful outer ring, according to NASA. Inside the cartwheel are bright red spokes or streaks created by glowing oil-rich dust.

Jupiter

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

Webb’s latest image released this week is a stunning image of Earth’s neighbor in the solar system.

A composite of three filters, the image of Jupiter reveals “mists swirling around the north and south poles” of the planetary gas giant.

It also highlights the Great Red Spot, a storm so big it would swallow Earth, in a wide white band around the gas giant.

Imke de Pater, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, who co-led the Jupiter observations, said the team was surprised by the details of the planet.

“We didn’t expect it to be this good,” Pater said in a statement posted to NASA’s blog. “It’s truly remarkable that we can see details of Jupiter with its rings, tiny satellites and even galaxies in a single image.”

Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

Although it looks a bit cluttered, this image is stunning as it shows thousands of galaxies in a distant cluster known as SMACS 0723.

This image, among the first photos published by Webb on July 12, is the telescope’s first deep-field image.

In the center of the image is a bright white elliptical galaxy that dwarfs the rest, stretching its pointed arms in five directions. Surrounding it are galaxies of all shapes and sizes, flooding the image and demonstrating just how massive the universe is.

This image was historic, NASA wrote in July, because it showed how Webb “will allow future researchers to finely catalog the precise compositions of galaxies in the early universe, which could ultimately reshape our understanding of how galaxies have changed and evolved over billions of years.”

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