James Webb’s First Images are Wonderful

The devil works hard but JWST’s mirrors work harder!

After nearly TWO decade of waiting, James Webb has finally launched, deployed its mirrors and sent us some amazing images, all in time for the birthday of a good friend of mine. Happy birthday Ron! Let’s have a gaze at all of these great pieces of work.

All images are credit to NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and of course JWST.

SMACS 0723

SMACS 0723 was the first image shown to the public. It’s a large galaxy cluster about 5 billion light-years away from mathematics, however it appears only 4.3 billion light years from the distance the light has travelled. Big distances call for big confusion!

You’ll also notice a lot of wiggly or flat galaxies, which are caused by gravitational lensing where a really massive object distorts the light around it, including the light of distant galaxies.

This image of SMACS 0723 reveals far more further galaxies that Hubble couldn’t detect, making it the sharpest and furthest image of the distant universe we have so far!

I could not for the life of me find the older picture by Hubble, but thankfully Wil from Wil Photography saved the day with this comparison of the older image vs the newer one.

Credit to Wil Photography

Our next image is the Southern Ring nebula, also known as Caldwell 74.

Southern ring in near-infrared (left), and mid-infrared (right).

This is a spectacular planetary nebula, showcasing the end of a Sun-like star. When these types of stars die, the eject their outer layers and create these beautiful shells which form the nebulous part, with the star itself transforming into a white dwarf.

What’s interesting about this planetary nebula is that it’s TWO stars. In the left image, you can’t actually see the white dwarf that created the nebula, you can only see the brighter other star, which hasn’t exploded yet. It’s only in the right image that you can spot the white dwarf. It’s the redder one that’s leftmost and slightly lower.

Here’s an image by Hubble of Caldwell 74. As you can see, it’s lacking the detail of the James Webb ones:

Our third image is Stephan’s Quintet:

This is an enormous mosaic of 5 galaxies (trust me, there’s 5 here), and is made up by over 1000 images combined.

This image is particularly important because it’s 5 galaxies interacting with each other. Seeing just two interacting galaxies of this degree is an extremely rare occurrence, let alone 5, and JWST is showing us details of the galaxies that we have never seen before such as young star regions and starburst areas, dust tails, and shock waves.

Galaxy evolution and collisions are so under-researched but I think images like these and the raw data will help us understand these topics better.

Our final image is the Carina nebula, described as a “landscape of mountains and valleys,” this nebula is full of star-forming regions and this image captures only a small fraction of the Carina nebula.

Webb’s infrared cameras are particularly useful in this case because we can now see past the dust and gas to a better degree and view more star forming regions.

I also love this image because of the aesthetically pleasing aspect of it. And of course, it shows us that Vecna is real and the Upside down is in the Carina nebula.

These images are outstanding, and I can’t wait to see more of them! Please please go click in the link to the original images and download the uncompressed full resolution images. They’re TIF files which are normally compatible for most computers, and there you’ll see the most detailed images in your life (so far).

Have a good day!

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