On Tuesday morning, July 12, people all around the world were mesmerized by the five first images from the James Webb Space Telescope.
But the Webb image reveals first began on Monday, July 11, when NASA and President Biden unveiled the first photo, titled Webb’s First Deep Field, which is the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date,” according to NASA.
The high-resolution image shows a galaxy cluster called SMACS 0723, which is about “the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.”
It is the first full-color photo taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera to be revealed to the public. It was captured in 12.5 hours, and is a composite of a number of images taken at different wavelengths. And 12.5 hours is far quicker than it sounds, as the Hubble Space Telescope took several weeks to capture images of deep space.
And on Tuesday, July 12, hundreds of thousands of people tuned into a NASA livestream, in which the agency revealed four more images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
The NASA and Webb teams are incredibly proud of their discoveries, and NASA believes that the Webb telescope will help researchers “learn more about the galaxies’ masses, ages, histories, and compositions, as Webb seeks the earliest galaxies in the universe.”
NASA revealed two stunning shots of the Southern Ring planetary nebulas.
The first new images revealed on Tuesday were two gorgeous shots of the Southern Ring planetary nebula (NGC 3132) and its pair of stars.
A planetary nebula is “caused by a dying star that has expelled a large fraction of its mass over in successive waves,” which can be seen in the images, according to Karl Gordon, Webb Instrument Scientist.
The James Webb Space Telescope also captured Stephan’s Quintet.
The next image revealed Tuesday morning is a near-infrared image and a mid-infrared image combined, made up from around 1,000 image files, titled Stephan’s Quintet. In the image, we see five galaxies, which Webb NIRSpec Scientist Giovanna Giardino described as in a “cosmic dance driven by the gravitational force” in the livestream.
According to NASA, this image is the largest image taken by Webb thus far, as it captures a section of the sky about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter, as seen from planet Earth.
The fifth photo, titled Cosmic Cliffs, shows the stunning Carina Nebula.
Cosmic Cliffs is an infrared image capturing a “stunning vista of the cosmic cliffs of the Carina Nebula.”
It reveals hundreds of new stars that were previously totally hidden from Earth’s view; bubbles, cavities, and jets that the stars are blowing out; mysterious galaxies in the background; gas and dust; structures that scientists cannot even identify yet; and so much more, as noted by NASA and Webb astrophysicist Dr. Amber Straughn in the livestream.
All four images revealed in the NASA livestream are breathtaking, and some of the most high-quality images of deep space humanity has ever seen. It will certainly be interesting to see what images the Webb telescope produces next — and what we can learn from them.