Groundbreaking full color-images revealing deepest glimpse into cosmos yet unveiled

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

President Joe Biden unveiled the first full-color image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on Monday, an image that borders on the line between science and science-fiction as it is one of the deepest and highest-resolution views of the universe ever captured. NASA followed this up on Tuesday with more mind-boggling photos from the great expanse of outer space.

The "deep field" image gleans a look at a point in space 4.6 billion light-years away from Earth. This means that the light captured by the telescope was emitted from these distant objects before the formation of the Earth.

The magnificent photo of new worlds is of SMACS 0723, a cluster of distant galaxies that distorts the light around it to reveal even more distant worlds. Gravity is a powerful force, and with supermassive objects in space, gravity can actually bend light.

This phenomenon is also known as gravitational lensing and can reveal objects that otherwise would be too faint to be seen. The light distortion in the SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster combined with the tremendous power of the JWST can reveal ancient objects, potentially nearly as old as the universe itself.

"These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things, and a reminder to the American people, especially our children, that there's nothing beyond our capacity," President Biden stated at Monday's event revealing the first photo from the telescope. "We can see possibilities nobody has ever seen before, go places nobody has ever gone before."

(NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

The JWST was launched on Dec. 25, 2021, and is stationed about 1 million miles away from Earth at a Lagrange point (L2). At this location, roughly three times farther away than the moon, the gravitational forces from the sun and Earth naturally work to keep the telescope around the same point in space without having to use much fuel, according to NASA.

At this distance, it is virtually impossible for astronauts to service the telescope if something goes wrong, but it is in a darker area of space compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, which is around 340 miles away from the Earth.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is positioned at L2, a point in space roughly 1 million miles, or 1.5 million kilometers, away from Earth and about three times farther away than the moon. (NASA)

It is also significantly more powerful than the famed Hubble Space Telescope, allowing scientists to look deeper into space and potentially unlock secrets about the formation of planets, the birth of stars or perhaps even the origins of the universe. "Webb will revolutionize our knowledge of star formation & gas interactions in these galaxies," NASA said.

NASA, in partnership with the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency, revealed several photos in recent weeks captured during the telescope's calibration, and even these test images blew away expectations.

GET THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP

Scientists say that the data and images collected by the telescope over its lifetime could revolutionize the understanding of the history of the universe.

Here are the newest photos from the JWST.

Among the vast expanse of countless stars and planets are colossal clouds of interstellar dust and gas known as nebulae. When gravity takes over, a nebula can turn into a star factory, churning out entire solar systems over the course of millions of years.

The Carina Nebula is one of these interstellar nurseries. It is located approximately 7,600 light-years from Earth and is of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, according to NASA.

New stars being born in the Carina Nebula. (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

"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," NASA said. "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."

This astronomical marvel is called the "Cosmic Cliffs" in the Carina Nebula with towers of gas 7 light-years tall. Every single dot of light in the image is a star, and each star could be home to undiscovered planets.

The JWST is not looking for just stars and galaxies but also planets orbiting distant suns, some of which could contain the ingredients for life.

WASP-96 b is an exoplanet that was discovered in 2014, is wider than Jupiter and zips around its parent star once every 3.4 Earth days, according to NASA. The gas giant is situated 1,150 light-years away from Earth or more than 6 quadrillion miles away.

The JWST was able to collect information about the planet's atmosphere just by the light gathered by the telescope, including what its clouds are made of.

Data gathered about the clouds on a Jupiter-sized planet over 1,000 light-years from Earth. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

"NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star," NASA said. This is the most detailed look at the atmosphere of a planet outside of the solar system.

Nebulae can give birth to new stars or be the aftermath of a dying star. The latter is true for the Southern Ring Nebula roughly 2,000 light-years away from Earth.

Also known as the "Eight-Burst" nebula, this cloud of gas is expanding away from a dying star, according to NASA. The gas has expanded outward nearly 3 trillion miles and is a common target for astrophotographers, as it features vivid colors that stand out in the night sky.

Two images of the Southern Ring Nebula captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

These two images of the Southern Ring Nebula were taken by different instruments on the JWST.

"The dimmer star at the center 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," NASA explained. "The new details from Webb will transform our understanding of how stars evolve and influence their environments."

One of the more intriguing images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is Stephan's Quintet, a grouping of galaxies that are performing a gravitational dance in space 290 million light-years away. Now, the JWST has provided an even more detailed image of the galaxies to shed more light on the complex nature of their motion.

Stephan's Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

"This enormous mosaic is Webb's largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon's diameter," NASA explained. "It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files."

There could be hundreds of billions of stars in these five galaxies, with a countless number of stars contained in the distant galaxies in the background of the image.

Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app. AccuWeather Alerts are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.