Never before have we been able to see the universe the way the James Webb Space Telescope is showing us now.
Our naked eye would never be able to see what the telescope sees: by traveling through light and space, James Webb can see the origins of the universe, something our mind can hardly begin to grasp.
Functioning like a time machine, the first images shared by this powerful telescope on July 12 showed us distant galaxies, the death of stars, and the atmosphere of planets outside our solar system.
One of the most extraordinary images released so far is that of the so-called Phantom Galaxy (M74). Webb’s ability to pick up longer wavelengths of light allows scientists to pinpoint star-forming regions in galaxies like this one.
This image reveals masses of gas and dust in the arms of the galaxy and a dense cluster of stars within it.
Jupiter and its moons as you’ve never seen them before
NASA scientists also released new footage of the largest planet in the solar system, describing the results as “pretty incredible.”
The James Webb Telescope took the photos in July, capturing unprecedented views of Jupiter’s northern and southern lights and swirling polar haze. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm large enough to engulf Earth, stands out brilliantly alongside countless smaller storms.
A wide-field image is particularly dramatic, showing the faint rings around the planet, as well as two tiny moons against a glittering background of galaxies.
“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s all pretty amazing,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, who helped lead the observations.
“We didn’t really expect it to be that good, to be honest,” he added in a statement.
The infrared images were artificially colored in blue, white, green, yellow and orange, according to the French-American research team, to bring out the features.
Other discoveries: how the Cartwheel galaxy is changing
The latest images come a few weeks after another series of images captured by James Webb’s team showed us the Cartwheel galaxy in more depth, taking us another step in our understanding of the universe by showing us what happens after two collide. galaxies.
Peering through the cosmic dust created by the collision with its infrared cameras, the telescope gave us an idea of how the Cartwheel galaxy is changing after an encounter with another smaller galaxy billions of years ago.
Scientists think that the Cartwheel galaxy, a ring galaxy more than 500 million light years away from our planet and which owes its name to its bright inner ring and colored outer ring, was once part of a large spiral like the Milky Way, before another galaxy crashed through it.
The entire appearance of the galaxy, which reminded scientists of a chariot wheel, is due to that high-speed collision, according to NASA. From the center of the collision, the two rings of the galaxy expanded outward, creating that rare ring shape.
Scientists have never been able to see clearly into the chaos of the Cartwheel galaxy and make sense of it.
The Hubble Space Telescope had already scanned the galaxy, but the amount of dust surrounding the Cartwheel galaxy prevented the telescope from observing phenomena occurring within the galaxy.
But now, thanks to the infrared cameras of the James Webb Telescope, scientists are able to observe the light center of the galaxy.
To do this, an image is created by combining the near infrared camera (NIRCam) and the medium infrared (MIRI) instrument, which are able to see through dust and reveal wavelengths of light that are impossible to observe in conditions. of visible light.
The resulting image shows the formation of stars in the aftermath of the collision of galaxies, a process that is not yet fully understood.
The bright core at the center of the galaxy contains hot dust, NASA says, with the brightest areas hosting gigantic young star clusters.
What you see on the outer ring, on the other hand, is the formation of new stars.
The Cartwheel galaxy is still going through changes and will continue to transform, promising to reveal more secrets about how galaxies evolve over time, even though it could take billions of years.
The successor to NASA and the European Space Agency’s $ 10 billion (€ 10 billion) Hubble Space Telescope took off late last year and has been observing the cosmos in infrared since the summer.
Scientists hope to see the dawn of the universe with Webb, looking back to when the first stars and galaxies were forming 13.7 billion years ago.
The observatory is located 1.6 million km from Earth.