A little more than a week had passed since Independence Day celebrations, but the crowd at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, was just as excited as anyone at a fireworks show. They were there because the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a technological marvel launched the year before in December, had finally sent back images of the universe that were stunningly beautiful and detailed. Now, the crowd was about to see them for the first time and see history being made right before their eyes.
Since that important day in 2022, NASA has been releasing more and more images from the JWST, and both astronomers and regular people have been amazed by each one. Considering that it cost a total of $10 billion to build and was finished in 2016, it’s a relief that the telescope lived up to the hype.
To mark this important moment in astronomy, we’ve put together seven of the most interesting pictures the JWST took in its first year of operation, 2022. They show everything from the most faraway galaxies ever seen to our own solar system in a way that has never been done before.
1. SMACS 0723
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope took the clearest and most detailed infrared picture of the far reaches of the universe to date. This picture of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which is known as Webb’s First Deep Field, is full of details. NASA, the ESA, the CSA, and STScI To get this list off on the right foot, let’s start with SMACS 0723, which was the first full-color picture taken by the JWST. More importantly, though, SMACS 0723 is the clearest and most complete infrared picture of the universe that a telescope has ever taken.
“This picture is about the size of a single grain of sand when held at arm’s length. It’s a very small part of the huge universe “Bill Nelson, who is in charge of NASA, explained in a statement.
From the ground, infrared light has always been the hardest part of the electromagnetic spectrum for astronomers to see. Earth’s heat makes its own infrared light, which is then scattered all over the atmosphere. This makes it almost impossible for astronomers to use infrared telescopes on the ground to see anything. On the other hand, the JWST is not limited by Earth and doesn’t have to look through Earth’s infrared light.
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2. Carina Nebula
NGC 3324 is a part of the Carina Nebula that is making stars (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)
This part of the Carina Nebula is called NGC 3324, but at first glance, it looks like a modified picture taken by a drone looking down at where the beach meets the ocean. But the reddish-brown “sand” and blue “water” in this picture are actually stars that are part of a new star nursery. The Carina Nebula is not that far away, especially compared to the last picture. It is part of our Milky Way galaxy, in the Carina-Sagittarius arm. The Cosmic Cliffs is another name for this vantage point.
“Taking a look at NGC 3324 will help us learn more about how stars are made. Over time, star birth spreads, which is caused by the expansion of the eroding cavity “Writes NASA. “As the bright, ionised rim moves into the nebula, it slowly moves into the gas and dust. If the rim runs into any unstable material, the increased pressure will cause the material to collapse and form new stars.”
3. Stephan’s Five
“Stephan’s Quintet” is a galaxy band (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)
Stephan’s Quintet is a group of five galaxies. It is in the constellation Pegasus, which was named after the famous winged horse from Greek mythology. Four of the galaxies in Stephan’s Quintet were the first compact group of galaxies ever found. But with the JWST, scientists can see these galaxies and the other stars around them in more detail than ever before. The images show that two of the galaxies are currently merging, and they show us how interactions between galaxies can lead to the formation of stars.
“The image also shows in a level of detail that has never been seen before how a black hole in Stephan’s Quintet is causing outflows,” NASA’s communications team said of the image.
4. The Tarantula Nebula
Tarantula Nebula star-forming region (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO)
This picture shows the Tarantula Nebula, which is also called 30 Doradus. Many people have said it looks like an abstract portrait of a man sitting cross-legged. In reality, this is another interstellar nursery, and the JWST’s infrared cameras let us see it in more detail than ever before. The Large Magellanic Cloud is about 161,000 light-years away from Earth, where you can find the Tarantula Nebula. It is best known for being home to the black hole VFTS 243, which was the first one found outside the Milky Way galaxy that didn’t give off a lot of light. The Tarantula Nebula is also home to some of the hottest and most massive stars we know of.
NASA said on its website, “The NIRCam image shows a hole in the centre of the nebula. This hole was made by radiation from a cluster of massive young stars that shine pale blue in the image.” “Only the densest parts of the nebula’s surroundings are strong enough to stop the strong stellar winds from eroding them. This makes pillars that seem to point back toward the cluster. These pillars are where protostars are forming. Eventually, these protostars will come out of their dusty cocoons and do their part to shape the nebula.”
5. The Ring Nebula in the South
With two cameras Webb took the most recent picture of this planetary nebula, which is officially called NGC 3132 and the Southern Ring Nebula. About 2,500 light-years separate us from it. NASA, the ESA, the CSA, and STScI The Southern Ring Nebula look like a jellyfish without tentacles. The only thing that might break this illusion are the waves coming from its centre. Is this a space monster or a new type of celestial body that beats?
This is actually a nebula called the Southern Ring Nebula.
A planetary nebula, which has the official name NGC 3132, is made when a dying star sends out a lot of mass in waves, like the ones we see in these pictures. This picture is interesting because of the story behind it: Astronomers used the near-infrared image to focus on a thin filament near the top of the nebula that is aligned in a circle and looks blue. Some scientists don’t think it’s very interesting, while others think it might be an edge-on galaxy. When scientists looked into it more, they found that this filament was, in fact, an edge-on galaxy.
Scientists also now know that, thanks to new research from JWST “The Southern Ring Nebula was made by at least two and maybe even three more stars that can’t be seen. Also, researchers were able to find the mass of the central star before it made the nebula for the first time by combining Webb’s infrared images with data from the Gaia observatory of the European Space Agency.”
6. Southern Ring Nebula was “stirred up”
Webb’s picture shows how molecular outflows from the Southern Ring Nebula stars have spread out and gone farther into space (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO)
The JWST took another picture of the same nebula, but this time with a different wavelength camera. When it did this, it discovered something about the astronomical object that astronomers didn’t know before: at least two or three unseen stars helped shape the nebula into what it is today.
NASA’s website says about this image, “Webb’s image traces the star’s scattered molecular outflows that have reached farther into the cosmos,” and that “blue and green were assigned to Webb’s near-infrared data taken in 2.12 and 4.7 microns (F212N and F470N), and red was assigned to Webb’s mid-infrared data taken in 7.7 microns (F770W).” Astronomers also used data from JWST and the Gaia observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA) to figure out the exact mass of the central star before it made the nebula.
7. A different view of Jupiter
The Webb NIRCam took a picture of Jupiter using three filters—F360M (red), F212N (yellow-green), and F150W2 (cyan)—and the planet’s rotation to line them up. (NASA, ESA, CSA, ERS Team for Jupiter)
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the biggest planet in our solar system. When you think about it, you probably picture a big ball with swirling red, orange, white, and yellow bands. You probably also think of the famous Great Red Spot, which is south of the planet’s equator.
But in 2022, the JWST gave us new information about Jupiter. It did this by using three special infrared filters to measure the different wavelengths of light coming from Jupiter’s atmosphere. NASA scientists turned this data into images using false colours because humans can’t see in the infrared. This gave them a detailed view of Jupiter that had never been seen before. This one lets people see the beautiful light shows in the sky, called auroras, as they happen in Jupiter’s atmosphere. It also shows wind, storms, and temperature highs and lows.
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