The James Webb Space Telescope is profoundly powerful.
A newly-released galactic image from the European Space Agency shows a deep view of the cosmos that other telescopes can’t see. The universe’s most ancient galaxies are so far away that their light has literally stretched out into wavelengths that aren’t visible to our eyes. But “Webb’s speciality,” NASA emphasizes(Opens in a new window), is to view these longer, infrared wavelengths of light.
When Webb views such far-off places in space, the instrument is looking back in time billions of years. This image shows what those galaxies looked like when the light left, long ago.
Here’s what else you’re seeing in the image below:
In the foreground, near the bottom, is a glorious example of a spiral galaxy, called LEDA 2046648. At around 1 billion light years away, it’s much closer than the distant galaxies beyond. Our Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, too.
Everything else in this image is a galaxy, except for the six-pointed objects, which are much closer stars. (Bright points of light in a telescope like Webb can cause something called “diffraction spikes.”) “A crowded field of galaxies throngs this Picture of the Month(Opens in a new window) from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, along with bright stars crowned with Webb’s signature six-pointed diffraction spikes,” the European Space Agency (ESA) explained(Opens in a new window).
Many of the distant galaxies look reddish or orangish. As the universe expands and these celestial objects move farther away, their light has stretched. “Webb’s keen infrared vision helps the telescope peer back in time, as the light from these distant galaxies is redshifted towards infrared wavelengths,” the ESA said.SEE ALSO:
Many of the Webb telescope’s greatest discoveries won’t come from any amazing pictures
A deep view of the cosmos. LEDA 2046648 is the large galaxy at the bottom.
Credit: ESA Webb / NASA / CSA / A. Martel
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The Webb telescope is a scientific collaboration between NASA, the ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency. In this image, astronomers were actually capturing views of galaxies and stars to calibrate the telescope’s sensitive instruments. The greater research goal is to compare unprecedented views of the first, earliest galaxies with galaxies closer to us, in the Milky Way. Astronomers want to understand how galaxies, like our own, grew and evolved.
Many of these galaxies contain hundreds of billions of stars, and many, many more planets. That adds up to an incomprehensible number of strange new worlds, perhaps places we can’t even imagine. Though some, we can.