On the anniversary of NASA’s Webb telescope reaching its destination, here are the most striking images yet
Tuesday marks one year since the James Webb Space Telescope reached its destination, orbiting 1 million miles away from Earth.
Launched on Christmas Day in 2021, the Webb Telescope was a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency with the aim of studying the formation of the universe’s earliest galaxies, how they relate to the current galaxies, how our solar system developed and whether there is life on other planets.
It uses infrared radiation to detect objects in space and can view celestial objects that are generally invisible to the naked eye.
Since then, the Webb telescope has returned numerous images, including stars, planets and nebulae, and even galaxies millions of miles away.
Here are some of the most notable photos taken over the course of a year:
The first full-color image taken by the Webb telescope was unveiled at a press event on July 11 in the White House hosted by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The image of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant Universe to date,” according to NASA.
Thousands of galaxies can be seen in the image, but according to NASA, it is about the size of the equivalent of someone holding a grain of sand at arm’s length.
It was also the first time the public understood how much more powerful Webb is than its predecessor, the Hubble telescope, which sees only visible light, ultraviolet radiation and near-infrared radiation.
The image, unveiled on July 12 at an event hosted by NASArevealed new details about the Carina Nebula, located in the Milky Way galaxy.
Only the edge of the nebula can be seen, but the image shows hundreds of stars previously obscured by a cloud of gas and dust.
Dubbed the Cosmic Cliffs, the area exhibits a “gigantic, gaseous cavity” due to young stars that have recently been born pushing down ultraviolet radiation and creating the jagged edge.
The cloud-like structure of the nebula contains ridges, peaks, and valleys — an appearance that closely resembles a mountain range.
Jupiter in detail
On August 22, NASA revealed two new images of Jupiter taken by Webb, showing the planet’s atmosphere, rings and moons in never-before-seen detail.
The first image is a composite of swirls of different colors, suggesting Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere and the infamous Great Red Spot, which can produce winds of over 400 kilometers per hour.
The second image shows Jupiter’s rings, which NASA says are a million times fainter than the planet, and two of its moons, Adrastea and Amalthea.
First released on August 30 by the ESAWebb captured an image of the Phantom Galaxy, which is about 32 million light-years away from Earth.
The Phantom Galaxy, also known as M74, has a low surface brightness, making it difficult to see and requiring clear, dark skies to do so. However, Webb’s sharp lens captured the clearest view of the galaxy’s features.
“These spiral arms are marked by blue and bursts of pink, which are star-forming regions,” NASA wrote in a post on social media. “A speckled cluster of young stars glows blue in the heart of the galaxy.”
Pillars of Creation
NASA released an image of “The Pillars of Creation” — young, bright red stars in a billowing cloud of gas and dust — on Oct. 19
The Pillars of Creation are elephant trunks, a type of interstellar matter formation, located in the Eagle Nebula, which is about 6,500 to 7,000 light-years from Earth, the space agency said.
Released On November 16, the Webb telescope will reveal a protostar, the early stages of a star’s birth.
The gas cloud in red and orange twists in the shape of a fiery hourglass.
As the material pulls in, the core will compress, get hotter and eventually begin nuclear fusion, creating a star.
Coldest ice ever recorded
The latest image released by NASA ahead of its one-year anniversary shows a molecular cloud, where stars and planets are born, with icy ingredients.
The telescope shows the frozen form of elements, including carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur.
“We’re not talking about ice cubes,” NASA wrote in a post on social media on January 23. “This molecular cloud is so cold and dark that several molecules are frozen onto dust grains within. Webb’s data provides the first evidence that molecules more complex than methanol can form in the icy depths of such clouds before stars are born.”
Max Zahn of ABC News contributed to this report.
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