Dubbed the world’s most powerful telescope, NASA’s James Web Telescope captured some stunning images of our universe this year, leaving space lovers fascinated. The next-generation observatory, priced at $10 billion, was launched on December 25, 2021 on the Ariane 5 rocket from the Kourou Cosmodrome in French Guiana. Named after a former NASA director, Webb follows in the footsteps of the legendary Hubble but offers insights into the universe previously inaccessible to us. Webb is about 100 times more powerful than Hubble.
To mark its first anniversary, here are 5 incredible images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2022 that revolutionized space imaging.
Deepest infrared image of the early Universe
In his first image, captured in July 2022, Webb revealed the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the early Universe” ever recorded, dating back 13 billion years. The stunning image, revealed at a President Joe Biden White House briefing, showed thousands of overflowing galaxies and revealed the faintest objects ever observed, colored from infrared to hues of blue, orange and white. The image showed the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago, with many more galaxies in front and behind the cluster.
In the same month, the telescope revealed nascent star-forming regions and individual stars in the Carina Nebula that had previously been obscured. Dubbed Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional image looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. It’s actually the edge of NGC 3324’s vast gaseous cavity, and the tallest ‘peaks’ in this image are about 7 light-years tall.
In September 2022, the telescope captured the clearest view of Neptune’s rings in over 30 years. In 1989, NASA’s Voyager 2 was the first spacecraft to capture an image of Neptune. According to NASA, not only did Webb capture the clearest view of this distant planet’s rings since the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past it in 1989, but his cameras showed the ice giant in a whole new light. The Webb has also captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons.
The Cartwheel Galaxy
In August 2022, Webb’s strong infrared view produced this detailed image of the Cartwheel and two smaller companion galaxies against a backdrop of many other galaxies. The image offered a new perspective on how the galaxy evolved over billions of years, NASA said. About 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, the Cartwheel Galaxy is a rare sight. Its appearance, resembling the wheel of a chariot, is the result of an intense event – a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy not visible in this image.
The Pillars of Creation
In October 2022, a lush and highly detailed landscape – the iconic “Pillars of Creation” – was captured by the James Webb Telescope. The twinkle of thousands of stars illuminates the telescope’s first image of the gigantic pillars of gold, copper and brown that stand within it in the middle of the cosmos: the “Pillars of Creation” are located 6,500 light-years from Earth in our Milky Way’s Eagle Nebula.
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