The James Webb Space Telescope continues to deliver awe-inspiring images and insights into the universe. Its mirror is six times the size of the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking stellar pictures since 1990. But it’s not just about size. The new telescope records infrared wavelengths rather than visible light so it can see farther and more clearly. Older stars appear as bright eight-pointed spikes in the Webb telescope pictures below due to the way the images are taken. But it also adds to the ethereal nature of each image as we peer farther and farther into infinity.
The James Webb Space Telescope has captured the clearest view of Neptune’s ring in more than 30 years. We see the rings and the planet’s fainter dust bands. Neptune system expert and interdisciplinary scientist for Webb Heidi Webb said, “It has been three decades since we last saw these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared.”
The image above of the Tarantula Nebula is 340 light years across. It introduces us to tens of thousands of stars never seen before because they were lost in the dust of Hubble’s view. The region forms news stars, which appear pale blue. And in case you’re trying to find the eight-legged creature the nebula is named for, apparently it looks like a tarantula’s burrow with silk around the entry, rather than the spider itself. The video below also shows the mid-infrared image from the Webb Telescope. Gases and cosmic dust glow turquoise and purple. It’s beautiful to us casual observers, but adds even more data for astronomers.
Also known as M74, the Phantom Galaxy is 32 million light years away in the constellation Pisces. When compared to pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, the image from the James Webb Space Telescope cuts through the gas and dust to show off the star clusters at the galaxy’s core. Stars and other distant objects are also visible through patches in the arms of the spiral. Combining the images from the two space telescopes gives astronomers the best of both worlds. The visible and infrared light spectrums provide complementary insights into the mesmerizing center of the Phantom Galaxy.
Exoplanet HIP 65426 b
Images of this faraway planet are the first of one outside of our Solar System. Different cameras and filters on the James Webb Space Telescope provide multiple views and insights to astronomers. HIP 65426 b is a gas giant nine times the mass of Jupiter, but we don’t know much more about it yet. Scientists are analyzing all the new data from the Webb Telescope. They removed the light from the planet’s sun using a coronagraph. Once the much brighter star was masked, the faint planet could finally be photographed.
Keep up with the telescope’s Twitter account to see the newest images and research. These include tests taken right here in our own Solar System. Like stunning views of Jupiter, including aurora and some of its many moons. And plenty of distant targets, like the Cartwheel Galaxy and its swirling dust clouds. And of course the first images, including a deep field view that included the oldest and farthest away objects ever photographed.
Originally published September 6, 2022.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.