The first color images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have been released – and they are absolutely breathtaking.
That’s because the telescope has yielded the deepest and sharpest infrared images of the early Universe to date.
Webb is the largest and most powerful telescope ever launched into space – a promising successor to the famous Hubble telescope.
These are the three main differences between the two telescopes, according to NASA:
- Webb mainly looks at the universe in the infrared, while Hubble mainly studies it at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths. This makes a big difference, as infrared images can peer through cosmic dust and reveal hidden objects or formations.
- Webb also has a much larger mirror than Hubble. This larger light-gathering area means it can peer further back in time than Hubble can.
- While Hubble orbits the Earth at an altitude of 570 km, Webb is much further away. It’s on the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point1.5 million kilometers away!
Even with our humble, earthbound eyes, we can still perceive the difference in image quality and detail that the telescopes produce.
SMACS 0723 is a cluster of galaxies in the southern constellation Volans. It is about 5.12 billion light-years away.
Southern Ring Nebula
This is a planetary nebula – an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds a dying star. It is nearly half a light-year across and is located about 2,000 light-years from Earth.
Stephan’s Quintet, located about 290 million light-years away, is a group of five galaxies in the constellation Pegasus. It is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877.
The Carina Nebula is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, located about 7,600 light-years away. It is home to many massive stars several times larger than the Sun.
If you want to compare the images with a slider, you can here†