In pictures: The James Webb telescope’s first images
The James Webb telescope has released its first images, providing a spectacular glimpse into the history of the universe.
In a sneak peek, NASA released the first image from its James Webb Space Telescope – the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. The image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 overflowing with detail.
“Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground,” NASA announced.
The images come just over six months after the telescope was launched on 25 December 2021 from Europe’s Spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest telescope that has ever been placed in space – its sunshield alone is the size of a tennis court – and it is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope.
Webb is an infrared telescope, with a main imager that can detect light from both the earliest stars and galaxies in the process of formation, as well as young stars.
Its mission is to look back in time at the universe, and astronomers believe the results will “fundamentally alter our understanding” of it, NASA said.
“It will unfold the universe, transforming how we think about the night sky and our place in the cosmos. The telescope lets us look back to see a period of cosmic history never before observed. Webb can peer into the past because telescopes show us how things were – not how they are right now.
“It can also explore distant galaxies, farther away than any we’ve seen before.”
And now, for the first time, humanity has a front-row seat to the history of the universe, allowing us to gaze upon the extraordinary, spectacular worlds beyond our planet.
A full array of Webb’s first images and spectra is available here.
In case you missed it, also read Why the launch of the James Webb telescope could be the most important event of our lifetime
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