(Pocket-lint) – The James Webb Space Telescope may well be mankind’s greatest feat (so far). This is a magnificent space telescope that was originally initially designed and planned back in the late 1990s but wasn’t completed and launched until the end of 2021.
Now sitting at 930,000 miles beyond Earth’s orbit, the massive telescope is gathering data using its light collection tech which measures 25 square meters and is made up of 18 hexagonal mirrors crafted from gold-plated beryllium.
The idea is to give scientists the ability to study the history of the universe and explore distant worlds and stars that we could not observe before. Now some of the first images have been revealed and the results are staggering.
Before the official (and more exciting) images from the James Webb telescope appeared Nasa released this to show a tease of the future.
The shot shows a part of Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. On the left, you can see an image of the are taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Array Camera. On the right is the same area but taken by the James Webb telescope. The promise here is an unprecedented level of detail from JWST like we’ve never seen before.
Planetary Nebula NGC 3132
This is Planetary Nebula NGC 3132, also known as the “Southern Ring Nebula” and is one of the most well-known nebulas.
It’s located around 2,500 light-years away from our home planet and is interesting because the ring you can see is actually the result of dust and gas being expelled from a dying star in the middle of the shot.
The James Webb Telescope has captured this nebula with a new level of detail we’ve not seen before. For comparison, here’s the same region as seen by Hubble in 1998.
Twin dying stars
The Southern Ring Nebula actually has two stars at its heart. The James Webb telescope’s powerful infrared hardware has allowed Nasa to bring the second star into clearer view.
This view of the two dying stars will help scientists analyse the later stages of a star’s life and the impact on the surrounding space as they die.
Nasa says that these nebulae exist for tens of thousands of years so analysing them can result in masses of useful data.
Arguably the most impressive of the first image from the James Webb Telescope is this one of the Carina Nebula.
This was captured in infrared light by JWST and shows an area known as NGC 3324 which was previously seen by Hubble.
Now the Nebula can be seen in much more detail and with its hardware, JWST is able to reveal more than can be seen in traditional visible light images.
The colours and shapes seen here are gas and dust clouds and a mass of relentless radiation in the region. The mountains are said to be 7-light years tall.
The James Webb Telescope is able to peer through the gasses to see objects beyond. Giving access to a lot more data about the area and how it has changed over time.
Stephan’s Quintet is a group of five galaxies that were first discovered by Édouard Stephan in 1877. At the time this was the first compact galaxy group ever discovered though thanks to modern technology we’re now seeing a lot more of space and close bodies like this.
Now, well over a couple of centuries after Stephan’s Quintet was first spotted, we’re now seeing the area in more light and with more detail.
This image is also remarkable as it was constructed from 1,000 separate images and combined to result in over 150 million pixels.
With the James Webb Telescope’s technology, Nasa is now able to see never-before-seen details in the region including millions of young stars and starburst regions too.
Scientists can use this to see how the galaxies are interacting and evolving over time.
Although not as impressive as the latest images we still like this one taken during the actual alignment of the telescope.
When deployed, the James Webb Telescope had to travel over a million miles from Earth, then spend six months unfolding its mirrors, calibrating its instruments and aligning.
This image represents a milestone of JWST successfully deploying and testing its imaging capabilities.
The first step in what will hopefully be years, if not decades, of the space telescope examining our universe.
The deepest image
This incredible image shows the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far.
It was taken by James Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera and is constructed from images taken at different wavelengths. Essentially a long exposure and just a taste of things to come.
Interestingly it shows an area of space known as galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 and how it appeared over 4.6 billion years ago. So JWST is essentially looking back in time as well as through space.
Quintet in infrared
This is another view of Stephan’s Quintet taken using the space telescope’s MIRI instrument and with MIRI filters and processing to help differentiate the features of the galaxies.
The red areas show dusty, star-forming regions while the blue show stars or star clusters without dust. The green and yellow show more distant galaxies.
Spiral galaxy NGC 628
This image of NGC 628 was crafted by Gabriel Brammer, associate professor at the Cosmic Dawn Center in the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Denmark.
It shows a composite view of Spiral galaxy NGC 628 produced by three sets of data at different wavelengths taken by the space telescope’s mid-infrared instrument team.
Brammer explained that “If our eyes could see in these mid-infrared wavelengths, the night sky would look a lot more like this picture, which I think would be spectacular, maybe a little terrifying…”
The oldest galaxy ever observed – GLASS-z13
The James Webb telescope hasn’t been active that long, but it is already breaking records.
The team has observed what it says is the oldest galaxy ever observed. GLASS-z13 as it is known, apparently dates back to 300 million years after the big bang.
The previous oldest galaxy was spotted by Hubble back in 2016 and that was dated to 300 million years after the big bang.
The Cartwheel Galaxy
The James Webb Space Telescope has been pointing at the so-called Cartwheel Galaxy. An impressive region located around 500 million light-years away from our home.
The shape of the large Cartwheel Galaxy is said to be the result of a collision between two galaxies. We’re seeing the aftermath of it and scientists will be able to see how that changes over time too.
A supermassive black hole – NGC 7496
This is an image of NGC 7496 taken by JWST and enhanced by Judy Schmidt. It shows a galaxy that’s located 24 million light-years away with a super-massive black hole at its centre.
Jupiter in infrared
We’ve seen plenty of seriously impressive images of Jupiter over the years.
As well as being used to image distant galaxies, the James Webb Space Telescope is also being used to capture new images of ours.
This is a view of Jupiter in infrared. These sorts of images will help scientists learn more about the planet.
First direct image of a distant exoplanet
NASA has shared the James Webb Space Telescope’s first image of an exoplanet outside our own solar system.
Though it’s not the first image of the planet or indeed the first direct image of an exoplanet taken from space (Hubble did that) it is the first of its kind from JWST and promises plenty of data for scientists.
Sadly HIP 65426 b, as it is known, is a gas giant, so it’s not habitable but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. It’s said to be several times bigger than Jupiter and has a temperature of as much as 1,200 degrees C.
Although it might not be the most exciting of images on our list, this multiple wavelength image does help find out more detail about the giant and future planets.
This is the area of space often referred to as the Tarantula Nebula. An interesting region of star formation with plenty of young stars and more.
The James Webb Telescope has managed to reveal new details on this region including distant background galaxies and more detail in the composition of the region.
The Pillars of Creation
This nebula was originally discovered by Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1745 but is perhaps most well-known because of the image originally taken by Hubble Space Telescope.
This latest view of the area was taken by the James Webb Telescope and shows a much more detailed view of the area. You can see a comparison of the view here.
The red areas at the peaks of the pillars show where new stars are forming and the cosmic dust they’re bursting free from as they do so.
The spiral galaxy
This is IC 5332, also known as the spiral galaxy. It’s located 29 million light-years from our home planet and spans an impressive diameter of 66,000 light-years.
Webb’s Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) shows an intriguing view of the galaxy and the tangles of structures that lie within. This data is being used along with images captured by Hubble to analyse this area of space.
Writing by Adrian Willings.