Space looks clearer today. NASA unveiled the first images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, and the views are breathtaking. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration partnered with the ESA (European Space Agency) and the CSA (Canadian Space Agency) to usher in this new era of astronomical discovery. 

At 10:30 am EST on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, the James Webb Telescope revealed these images to the world in full color, complete with spectroscopic data, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

Are you ready to unlock the mysteries of the infrared universe? Check out the four images, along with brief descriptions of each one. 

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Carina Nebula

Photo of the Carina Nebula from the NASA James Webb Space Telescope.

The Carina Nebula looks like a star-speckled, cosmic mountain range. It’s the edge of a young star-forming region known as NGC 3324, captured by the telescope in all its infrared glory. We can now see portions of star birth once invisible to us. These tallest peaks of the “Cosmic Cliffs” are seven light-years high. 

SMACS 0723

Photo of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 taken by the NASA James Webb Space Telescope.

This image gives us the most transparent, sharpest glimpse of the distant universe thus far. SMACS 0723 showcases a galaxy cluster rich with intricate details. We can now see thousands of galaxies in the James Webb Telescope’s view. NASA reveals this image of the universe covers a section of the sky “the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.” Incredible!

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Southern Ring Nebula

Photo of the Southern Ring Nebula taken by the NASA James Webb Space Telescope.

The star at the center sends out gas and dust rings in all directions and has done so for thousands of years. The telescope shows us how dust cloaks this star. Known as NGC 3132, or the Southern Ring Nebula, this planetary nebula is 2,500 light-years away from us. 

Stephan’s Quintet

Photo of a grouping of five galaxies called "Stephan's Quintet," taken by the NASA James Webb Space Telescope.

Check out this stunning grouping of five galaxies! Categorized as Stephan’s Quintet, you might know this galaxy cluster from the 1946 classic flick It’s a Wonderful Life. Not only is this image Webb’s largest to date, but it covers one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter and is carefully constructed from 1,000 separate image files. 

What impresses you most about the James Webb Space Telescope images? Are you excited about what lies on our cosmic horizon with such a powerful device at our disposal? Sound off in the comments below!

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Melody McCune
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