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6 dazzling observations from the first month of the James Webb Space Telescope

6 dazzling observations from the first month of the James Webb Space Telescope
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  • In the month since the James Webb Space Telescope released its first images, it has captured brand new views of the cosmos.
  • The $10 Billion Space Telescope Started December 2021 and reached its destination beyond lunar orbit in January.
  • Webb is able to penetrate cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to see further into the past than ever before.

That James Webb Space Telescope was fully operational for only a month, but in that time it allowed astronomers to peer into the universe like never before and changed the way we view the cosmos.

Often described as the successor to the Hubble Space TelescopeWebb started on December 25, 2021, after more than two decades of development. Since that time, the $10 billion telescope has traveled more than 1 million miles from Earth and is now stationed in a gravitationally stable orbit collecting infrared light. By collecting infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, Webb is able to penetrate cosmic dust and see far into the past, to the first 400 million years after the Big Bang.

Since the telescope released its first set of images in July, it has been inundating researchers with observations of distant cosmic objects. For astronomers, these images are just the beginning.

Check out some of the most impressive images shared during the telescope’s first month of observing.

galaxies stars in the infrared jwst

The first deep-field infrared image from the James Webb Space Telescope released July 11, 2022.


NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI



The first glimpse of what Webb was able to capture was a “deep field” image — a long-exposure observation of a region of the sky that allows the telescope to capture the light of extremely faint, distant objects.

If you held a grain of sand at arm’s length, it would represent the speck of the universe you see in this image, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told President Joe Biden in a July 11 White House briefing.

Because light takes time to travel, some of the light in the new image is more than 13 billion years old. That’s less than 1 billion years after the Big Bang.

For this deep-field image, Webb trained his powerful infrared camera on SMACS 0723, a massive group of galaxy clusters that serve as a magnifying glass for the objects beyond. The streaks of light are galaxies being elongated by the strong gravitational pull of SMACS 0723, a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing.

So it took less than a day to take the picture OUR.

One of the main goals of the new telescope is to find galaxies so distant that their light will travel almost the entire history of the universe to reach Webb. Says NASA Webb can see further than other telescopes like Hubble and detect galaxies dating back to the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

Astronomers have already discovered one of the most distant galaxies we have ever seen.

Color image of CEERS-93316, a galaxy researchers believe formed 235 million years after the Big Bang.

Color image of CEERS-93316, a galaxy researchers believe formed 235 million years after the Big Bang.

CEERS/UOE/SOPHIE JEWELL/CLARA POLLOCK


In a study published for the Pre-print service Arxiv On July 25, researchers observed a galaxy called CEERS-93316, which they believe formed 235 million years after the Big Bang, making it the oldest galaxy ever observed.

Also in July, astronomers discovered another distant rotating assemblage of stars, gas and dust held together by gravity. The galaxy, known as GLASS-z13, is 13.5 billion years old and dates 300 million years after the Big Bang.

Webb discovered GLASS-z13, a galaxy dating back just 300 million years after the Big Bang.

Webb discovered GLASS-z13, a galaxy dating back 300 million years after the Big Bang.

Naidu et al., P. Oesch, T. Treu, GLASS-JWST, NASA/CSA/ESA/STScI


To confirm the ages of both galaxies, researchers need to make more spectroscopic observations.

The Webb telescope took a snapshot of it in August Cartwheel Galaxy more detailed than ever before.

Located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, the Cartwheel Galaxy is a rare ring galaxy formed after a collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller one, giving it the appearance of a cartwheel. It has two rings – a bright inner ring and a colorful outer ring that ripples outward from the center of the collision.

The outer ring has been expanding from the collision center for about 440 million years. As it expands and meets the surrounding gas, stars are formed.

The James Webb Space Telescope captured a snapshot of the Cartwheel Galaxy, about 500 million light-years from Earth.

The James Webb Space Telescope captured a snapshot of the Cartwheel Galaxy, about 500 million light-years from Earth.

Production team from NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI and Webb ERO


In the photo above, star-forming pockets appear as blue dots in the red swirls of dust. To the left of the Cartwheel Galaxy, Webb captured two more galaxies in the image above.

The Cartwheel Galaxy was “presumably a normal galaxy like the Milky Way before its collision” and will continue to change in shape and structure in the future, OUR it says in a press release from August 2nd.

The new image reveals details about star formation and the black hole at the center of the galaxy, and sheds light on how the galaxy evolved over billions of years, the space agency said.

jupiter in white and orange infrared with dark moon europa surrounded by yellow light

Jupiter and its moon Europa (left) are seen through the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument


NASA, ESA, CSA and B Holler and J Stansberry (STScI)



Although the Space Telescope’s infrared vision allows astronomers to observe over amazing cosmic distances, it can also image closer, more familiar objects. In July, NASA released a series of new Webb images shows Jupiter in breathtaking detail.

Next to the gas giant are its moons Europa, Thebes and Metis. Scientists believe that deep beneath its thick icy crust, Europa has a saltwater ocean that could harbor extraterrestrial life.

Side-by-side images show Jupiter in two types of infrared light with large moon Europa and thin planetary rings

Jupiter, its moons and rings as imaged by JWST in short-infrared (left) and long-infrared (right) wavelengths.

NASA, ESA, CSA and B Holler and J Stansberry (STScI)


Astronomers also hope the Webb telescope will reveal whether distant worlds harbor such atmospheres could support life.

“With the James Webb Space Telescope, we can study the chemical composition of the atmospheres of other worlds — and whether there are signs in them that we can only explain through life,” said Lisa Kaltenegger, professor of astronomy at Cornell University and director of the Carl Sagan Institute, previously narrated insider.

Webb observed WASP-96 b's spectra and revealed that its atmosphere is composed of water, clouds and haze.

Webb observed WASP-96 b’s spectra and revealed that its atmosphere is composed of water, clouds and haze.

NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI


There is 70 planets planned for study in Webb’s freshman year. As part of his first series of observations, Webb captured the signature of water along with previously undiscovered evidence of clouds and haze in the atmosphere of WASP-96 b – a huge and hot gaseous planet orbiting a distant star like our sun.

“It’s an amazing time in our exploration of the cosmos,” Kaltenegger said, adding, “Are we alone? This amazing space telescope is the first instrument ever to collect enough light to answer this fundamental question.”

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