January 29, 2023

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Stunning images show the universe like never before

The Tarantula Nebula: Just 161,000 light-years from Earth, this is where thousands of stars are born

It was a $10 billion gift to the world. A machine that shows us our place in the universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope has been launched Exactly a year agoOn the birthday of Christ. It took three decades to plan, design and build.

Many have wondered if this successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope can really live up to expectations.

We had to wait a few months while its 6.5-meter primary mirror was unloaded and focused, and its other systems tested and calibrated.

But, yeah, it was all they said it would be. The US, European and Canadian space agencies throw a party in July To issue the first color photos. What you see on this page are some of the photos posted later that you may have missed.

The first thing to remember about James Webb is that it is an infrared telescope. It sees the sky in wavelengths of light beyond what our eyes can discern.

Astronomers use its various cameras to explore regions of the universe, such as these great constellations of gas and dust. The Pillars has been a favorite target for the Hubble Telescope. It would take several years traveling at the speed of light to traverse this entire landscape.

Carina Nebula

Carina Nebula

Carina Nebula

They call this landscape Cosmic Cliffs. It is the edge of a giant cavity of gas within another star-filled nebula, known as the Carina.

The cavity has been sculpted by intense ultraviolet light and winds from hot young stars just out of the shot.

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From one side of this image to the other is a distance of about 15 light-years. One light year is equal to about 9.46 trillion kilometers (5.88 trillion miles).

The cartwheel galaxy

The cartwheel galaxy

The cartwheel galaxy

This large galaxy to the right was discovered by the great Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky in the 1940s. Its complex structure consisting of a wheel resulted from a direct collision with another galaxy. Its diameter is about 145,000 light-years.

Neptune

Neptune

Neptune

James Webb doesn’t just look at the deep universe. It probes objects in our solar system, too. This gem is the eighth planet from the Sun: Neptune, seen with its rings. The small white dots that surround it are moons, as well as the large “pointed star” above. This is Triton, the largest satellite of Neptune. The screws are an artifact of the way James Webb’s mirror system was built.

Read more: Ringed Neptune was captured by the James Webb telescope

Orion Nebula

The inner Orion Nebula

The inner Orion Nebula

Orion is one of the most common areas of the sky. It is a star-forming region, or nebula, about 1,350 light-years from Earth. Here, Webb depicts a feature called the Orion Bar, which is a thick wall of gas and dust.

Dimorphos

Dimorphos

Dimorphos

In one of the big space stories of the year, NASA orbited a spacecraft at an asteroid called Dimorphos, to see if the path of the 160-meter-wide rock could be deflected. It was a test of the strategy of defending the Earth from the threat of asteroids. James Webb picked up a volley of 1,000 tons of flying debris on impact.

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Read more: Asteroid deflection experiment bolstered by debris

WR-140

WR-140

WR-140

This was one of the most intriguing web pictures of the year. “WR” stands for Wolf-Rayet. It’s a kind of star, a big star nearing the end of its life. Wolf Wright blows huge winds of gas into space. A companion star, not visible in this image, is compressing those winds into dust. The dusty shells you see stretch out over 10 trillion kilometers. This is 70,000 times the distance between Earth and our Sun.

Read more: A dusty star mystery solved by the James Webb telescope

Phantom Galaxy

Phantom Galaxy

Phantom Galaxy

Nicknamed the Phantom Galaxy, the M74 is known for its fancy spiral arms. It lies about 32 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Pisces, and lies almost facing us, giving Webb a perfect view of those arms and their structure. The detectors in a telescope are particularly good at picking up all the tiny filaments of gas and dust.

James Webb Art

James Webb’s Artwork in Space: The telescope should serve well for 20 years

You can still hear Jonathan’s voice Discovery Program for BBC World Service He discussed Webb’s project with leading scientists and engineers.