The time has finally arrived! NASA released the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope in July, and the awe-inspiring images keep coming.
Webb zoomed in to the Carina Nebula to a star forming region called NGC 3324. The hot, young stars just above this region emit intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds, cutting the peaks and valleys seen in the image. The deepest valleys are about 7 light-years deep. Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera and Mid-Infrared Instrument revealed previously hidden areas of star birth in the nebula. Researchers even found background galaxies. Webb’s unparalleled sensitivity discovered more low-mass stars, which are more prevalent in the nebula, but were previously overshadowed by more massive stars.
The researchers at NASA and their collaborators must be running around like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, going from one project to the next, all the while assessing the capabilities of the newest observatory in space. Choosing which project comes first and who gets time on the satellite must be a tough job. They did however step away from the visually mind-blowing images to see what the sensor could pick up from a distant planet. Webb trained its mirror on WASP-96 b, a planet 1,150 light years away, and captured a clear water signature along with clouds and haze, something unseen in the Hubble image of the same planet. Planetary science and modelling are taking giant leaps forward with the rich data collected by Webb as it trains its sensors to all manner of gaseous and rocky planets.
With such a powerful telescope, it’s only human to aim it deep into the Universe to see what we can find. While it shouldn’t be a surprise, Webb’s First Deep Field look into galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 revealed thousands more galaxies, including the faintest objects seen in the infrared. This is the most detailed view of the early universe ever captured, and there’s considerably more data to sift through. Webb’s incredible images only scratch the data’s surface, underneath is a wealth of information for researchers to comb through and unravel the mysteries of our Universe.