Webb telescope shows dazzling cosmic images

The James Webb Space Telescope captures a star forming in the Carina Nebula roughly 7,600 light-years away from Earth. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI)
The James Webb Space Telescope captures a star forming in the Carina Nebula roughly 7,600 light-years away from Earth. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI)
Infrared light shows the deepest, sharpest view of distant galaxies ever. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI)

Just-released brilliant and detailed images of distant parts of the universe taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will help people better understand it.

The Webb’s first, full-color image (at right) shows thousands of galaxies. This infrared image of the universe, the deepest and sharpest ever produced, was released on July 11 at the White House by President Biden and NASA experts.

deep field observation is an image of a portion of the sky taken with a very long exposure time to detect and study faint objects.

The Webb image shows galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera, which shot the deep field, brings distant galaxies into sharp focus.

“You’re seeing galaxies that are shining around other galaxies whose light has been bent,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “And you’re seeing just a small little portion of the universe.”

The Webb telescope photo is a composite of images at different wavelengths. Building on the Hubble Space Telescope’s legacy, the Webb has captured images at depths of infrared wavelengths beyond any taken by the Hubble.

Other Webb telescope images released July 12 include:

  • Five galaxies called Stephan’s Quintet.
  • The Carina Nebula’s previously obscured stellar nurseries and stars.
  • The Southern Ring Nebula, a gas cloud that surrounds a dying star about 2,500 light-years away.
  • Atmospheric data for Wasp-96 b, a giant planet orbiting a Sun-like star that is 1,150 light-years away.
This side-by-side comparison shows a dying star surrounded by clouds of gas and dust. (NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI)

The images are a result of international scientific collaboration among NASA, the U.S. space agency; the European Space Agency; and the Canadian Space Agency. Going forward, the $10 billion Webb telescope will help researchers learn more about galaxies’ masses, ages, histories and compositions.

Biden said the powerful telescope has opened a new window into the history of the universe. “We can see possibilities no one has ever seen before,” the president said. “We can go places no one has ever gone before.”

An artist’s rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope (© Northrop Grumman/NASA/AP Images)