Launched on December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has not ceased to amaze us since its first images were revealed six months ago. Take a look at his five most beautiful and (already) iconic photos from the universe. The choice was difficult.
The James Webb Space Telescope, launched on December 25, 2021, reached the L2 Lagrangian point, its destination, about a month later. Since then, she’s been tracing the deep sky, looking for signs of extraterrestrial life, dissecting stars – and photographing them! The first image provided by JWST was released in July 2022, but many more have followed since then. Futura presents a retrospective with this selection of five of his most exciting images.
The famous Pillars of Creation
This region at the heart of Eagle Nebula M16 was already known, having been imaged by the Hubble telescope in 1995 and 2014, among others. But this time the Pillars of Creation appears in a whole new light thanks to James-Webb and his NIRCam instrument! Located 6,500 light-years away, these strange clouds get their nickname from the many stars that are forming within them. These occur due to the gravitational collapse of gas and dust clouds. This is how countless stars form in the Pillars of Creation, including stars that form at the edges and stand out as bright red dots! The strange ripples, which look like pyroclastic flows, are emanations of material from newborn stars that are only hundreds of thousands of years old!
The mysterious cosmic rings that surround the star
Strange rings of dust appear to surround a star in this image, released in October 2022, reminiscent of the patterns of fingerprints. In fact, they reveal the movement of a binary star system called Wolf-Rayet 140. The two stars of the system, separated by 5,000 light-years, only meet every eight years, and when they meet, their stellar winds and the dust they contain are concentrated around them in the form of rings! James-Webb managed to capture 17 of these rings as ground-based telescopes can only see two! The name Wolf-Rayet is derived from one of the two stars, which, as the name suggests, is a Wolf-Rayet star. With a mass of several tens of solar masses, it has already passed the main stage of consuming hydrogen and is now merging with heavier elements, which is why large amounts of stellar wind are released into space.
Video comparison of the “Pillars of Creation” as viewed by HUBBLE and JAMES-WEBB SPACE TELESCOPES. NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, STSCI; J DEPASQUALE (STSCI), PAGAN (STSCI), A KOEKEMOER (STSCI), N BARTMANN (ESA/WEBB)
The first image of James Webb shows the young universe.
The image, which was revealed in July 2022, is the first image taken by the James Webb Telescope and it took several weeks! More specifically, it is a composite image created by the NIRCam instrument from a variety of images taken in different wavelength ranges. A total exposure time of approximately 12.5 hours was required. The image shows Smacs 0723, a galaxy cluster of thousands of galaxies, some visible only in infrared, which have not been observed before. It looks the same as it did 4.6 billion years ago, but at a much higher level of detail than when Hubble imaged it in 2017.
Jupiter in amazing colors
This time it is a celestial body we know very well: Jupiter! One of the giant planets in the solar system, closest to the sun. Image manipulations by Jodi Schmidt show this gas planet in extraordinary colours!
Multiple telescope views were created and then processed to create these colors. The first shows Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which this time appears as white as the other clouds because it reflects so much sunlight. Aurora borealis also appear in the giant poles.
The other image shows not only Jupiter, but also its rings and many of its moons. More specifically, it is Amalthea and Adrastia that reveal themselves!
Incredible cosmic hourglass
At first glance it’s hard to see what’s in this picture. The hourglass-like phenomenon captured by NIRCam is nothing more than a forming star! The star, called L1527, in the center of the image, is sucking in gas and dust and forming a protoplanetary disk around it. In the image, it appears as a dark line running through the protostar. The clouds on either side of L1527 are the remnants of the cloud in which the star began to form. As it is gradually drawn towards the center of the cloud, the whole takes on the shape of an hourglass. Finally, this protostar, which is only 100,000 years old and has not yet begun nuclear fusion, gives us a glimpse into our solar system’s past.
Editorial Office Futura Posted by Leah Fornason.
Cover image: Detail of the famous “Pillars of Creation” within the Eagle Nebula by the James Webb Space Telescope’s MARI Camera. NASA, ESA, Canadian Space Agency, STScI, J DePasquale (STScI), A Pagan (STScI)
Figure 2: The iconic and unmissable “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula, imaged by the James Webb Telescope. NASA, ESA, Canadian Space Agency, STScI, Joseph DiPasquale (STScI), Anton M Cockeymore (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
Figure 3: Double star Wolf-Rayet 140 and its dust rings dissected by the James Webb Telescope. NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, STScI, and JPL Caltech
4- Figure: James Webb’s first image shows the universe as it was 4.6 billion years ago, with galaxy cluster Smacs 0723! NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency/STScI
5- Figure: Jupiter reveals itself to the eyes of the James Webb Telescope. NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, Jupiter ERS team; Image editing by Judy Schmidt.
Figure 6: This second image reveals the surroundings of the gas giant Jupiter. NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Jupiter ERS team; Image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt, Lycia
Figure 7: The protostar in the dark cloud L1527, shown in this image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (NIRCam), is embedded in a cloud of matter that is fueling its growth. NASA, ESA, ASC, STScl, J DePasquale, A Pagan, A Koekemoer (STScI)
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