The most amazing images NASA’s James Webb Telescope has captured in space this year

It’s been a year since the James Webb Space Telescope was launched, and it’s been surprising us with amazing images from space.

Our naked eyes can’t see what a telescope can see: walking through light and space, James Webb can see the beginning of the universe – something our minds can’t begin to understand it.

Acting like a time machine, the first images shared by this powerful telescope on July 12 showed us distant galaxies, dying stars, and the atmospheres of exoplanets. to our own solar system.

Below are some of the most amazing images it has released so far.

A deeper look at the Pillars of Creation

The James Webb Telescope captured the highly detailed Pillars of Creation – first made famous by images taken by NASA’s Hubble Telescope in 1995 – where new stars form in dense clouds of gas and dust.

Three-dimensional columns look like cobblestones but are more penetrating. These columns are made up of cool interstellar gas and dust that appear – sometimes – transparent to near infrared light.

Based on images taken in 1995 and 2014, Webb’s new view of the Pillars of Creation will help researchers update their star formation models by identifying the most accurate numbers of newly formed stars, as well as their abundances. of gas and dust in the area.

In time, they will begin to understand more clearly how stars are formed and how they explode in these clouds of dust over millions of years.

On October 28, NASA released a second image of the Pillars of Creation, this time as seen by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). And it’s scary – in NASA’s words, this version is exceptionally dusty which makes it “sombre” and “angry”.

That’s because even though mid-infrared light is great at detailing where dust is, at these wavelengths, most of the surrounding stars aren’t bright enough to show up.

“Instead, these looming, lead-colored columns of gas and dust sparkle at their edges, suggesting inner activity,” NASA explained.

Thousands of new stars in the Tarantula Nebula

In images released by NASA in September, nebula 30 Doradus can be seen displayed in all its glory.

Nicknamed the Tarantula Nebula, it is a favorite of astronomers who study star formation, as one of the largest and brightest star-producing regions in the constellations near the Milky Way.

The Tarantula Nebula lies 161,000 light-years away in the constellation of the Large Magellanic Cloud. It gets its name from the long dusty filaments that resemble spider legs in old paintings.

The James Webb Telescope, however, captures the stargazer region with new levels of clarity, revealing tens of thousands of never-before-seen stars that were previously shrouded in dust. of the universe.

Iconic Phantom Galaxy

This amazing image is of the so-called Phantom Galaxy (M74). Webb’s ability to capture 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 at its core.

The first direct image of a distant exoplanet

NASA has also released unprecedented observations of an exoplanet in our solar system, using the powerful infrared eye of the James Webb Space Telescope to reveal new information that ground-based telescopes which cannot be seen.

The image of exoplanet HIP 65426 b, a gas giant about six to 12 times the mass of Jupiter, is the first time the Webb telescope has taken a direct image of an exoplanet. solar system.

“This is a turning point, not just for Webb but for astronomy in general,” said Sasha Hinkley, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, who led the observations.

Taking direct images of exoplanets is difficult because stars are much brighter than planets, says NASA.

Located 355 light years from Earth, HIP 65426 is about 15 to 20 million years old, compared to our 4.5 billion year old Earth.

It is 100 times farther from its star than Earth is from the Sun, so it is far enough from the star that Webb can easily separate the planet from the star in the image. But it is also more than 10,000 times fainter than its star in the near-infrared, and several thousand times fainter in the mid-infrared.

“Finding this image was like digging for a local treasure,” said Aarynn Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the analysis of the images.

“At first all I could see was the light from the star, but with careful manipulation of the image I was able to remove that light and reveal the planet”.

Jupiter and its moons as you’ve never seen them before

NASA scientists have also released new shots of the sun’s largest planet, describing the results as “very surprising”.

The James Webb Telescope took pictures back in July, capturing unprecedented views of Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, and polar fog. Jupiter’s Red Spot, a storm large enough to engulf Earth, stands out brightly next to countless smaller storms.

One wide image is particularly surprising, showing faint rings around the planet, as well as two small moons next to a bright galaxy.

“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this before. It’s pretty amazing,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, who helped lead the observations.

“We really didn’t expect it to be this good, to be honest,” he added in a statement.

The infrared images were colored blue, white, green, yellow and orange, according to the US-French research team, to make the features stand out.

Other discoveries: How the Cartwheel Galaxy is changing

The latest images come just weeks after another set of images taken by the James Webb team showed us the Cartwheel Galaxy in even greater depth, taking us another step towards understanding us of the universe by showing us what happens after two galaxies collide.

Peering through the cosmic dust created by the collision with its infrared cameras, the telescope gave us a glimpse of how the Cartwheel Galaxy is changing after it collides with another cluster. of a young star billions of years ago.

Scientists think that the Cartwheel galaxy, a ringed galaxy more than 500 million light-years from our planet named for its bright inner ring and my ring colorful, it was once part of a giant ring like the Milky Way before another galaxy broke it up.

The entire appearance of the galaxy, which reminded scientists of a cartwheel, is the result of that high-speed collision, according to NASA. Since the center of the collision, the galaxy’s two rings have been expanding outwards, creating an unusual crescent shape.

Scientists have not yet been able to clearly see the cartwheel galaxy’s chaos and understand it.

The Hubble Space Telescope had already peered into the galaxy, but the amount of dust surrounding the Cartwheel Galaxy prevented the telescope from seeing the events taking place inside the galaxy.

But now, thanks to the infrared cameras of the James Webb Telescope, scientists are able to look at the bright center of this galaxy.

To do so, the image is created by combining a Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and a Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which can see through dust and reveal wavelengths of light that cannot be seen in nature. he is bright and visible.

The resulting image shows the formation of stars after galaxies collide – a process that is not yet fully understood.

NASA says the central part of the galaxy contains hot dust, and the brightest regions are home to the largest clusters of young stars.

What you can see in the outer ring, on the other hand, is the formation of new stars.

The Cartwheel Galaxy is going through changes and will continue to change, promising to reveal more secrets about how galaxies change over time, even if it takes billions.

NASA and the European Space Agency’s $10 billion (€9.4 billion) successor to the Hubble Space Telescope left on December 25, 2021, and have been observing the universe in the infrared since the summer.

Scientists hope to see the beginning of the universe through Webb, a glimpse from the time when the first stars and galaxies were forming 13.7 billion years ago.

The observatory is located 1.6 million kilometers from Earth.

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