The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s James Webb Space Telescope’s images are taking us closer to the dawn of time. The telescope has captured the highest definition and sharpest infrared images of the vast distant universe, to date. By Lifestyle Asia Editors
NASA released the first image of the deep universe on July 12, 2022, and the album just keeps on growing. The first image, known as Webb’s Deep Field, shows the clearest image of the cluster of thousands of galaxies, termed SMACS 0723. A treasure trove of unfathomable information and details, the slew of images gives a glimpse of the vast expanse that lies beyond the Milky Way. Minute details and even the faintest objects are captured by the James Webb telescope with precision. NASA says, “This slice of the vast universe is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.” Taking us closer to the origin, the first image shows the galaxy cluster 4.6 billion years ago.
The Hubble’s telescope has also examined and captured images of exoplanetary atmospheres over the past two decades. While it confirmed the first clear detection of water in 2013, the images captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) are a giant leap forward. The latter’s ability to detect the trace presence of gas molecules, based on differences in brightness of precise colours of light and document detailed accounts of atmospheres hundreds of light years away, is evidence of its technological prowess.
The array of photographs, gradually being released, are testimony to the fact that indeed we are just a speck of dust in the abyss of space. Opening up new vistas of space exploration and unchartered avenues in astronomy, NASA has gone leaps and bounds ahead by going back in time with these images of nebulae, galaxies and stars whose light is reaching us hundreds of years later.
Here are the images taken by James Webb Space Telescope
Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail. Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.
Southern Ring Nebula
This side-by-side comparison shows observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from NASA’s Webb Telescope.
The dimmer star at the centre of this scene has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions, and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that this star is cloaked in dust.
Two cameras aboard Webb captured the latest image of this planetary nebula, catalogued as NGC 3132, and known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula. It is approximately 2,500 light-years away.
This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.
Sparkling clusters of millions of young stars and starburst regions of fresh star birth grace the image. Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. Most dramatically, Webb captures huge shock waves as one of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster.
This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.
Called the Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional picture looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. In reality, it is the edge of the giant, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, and the tallest “peaks” in this image are about 7 light-years high. The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the centre of the bubble, above the area shown in this image.
All images and descriptions: Courtesy NASA
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