James Webb Space Telescope Releases First Images

James Webb Space Telescope Releases First Images

After a successful launch and six months of on-orbit testing and calibration, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is fully operational. A report published July 12, 2022, states that “JWST is fully capable of achieving the discoveries for which it was built.”

During the six months of testing JWST made approximately 2,300 observations with its four science instruments NIRCam, NIRSpec, MIRI, and NIRISS, detecting spectra of transiting exoplanets, tracking solar system objects with high precision, detected faint galaxies, and observed objects as bright as Jupiter.

To celebrate this achievement and to show the public the capabilities of JWST, a group of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI selected four images and a set of spectroscopic data. The images and data were released during a live presentation on July 12 from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The photos and descriptions below are courtesy of NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.


SMACS 0723: Webb has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far – and in only 12.5 hours. For a person standing on Earth looking up, the field of view for this new image, a color composite of multiple exposures each about two hours long, is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. This deep field uses a lensing galaxy cluster to find some of the most distant galaxies ever detected and only scratches the surface of Webb’s capabilities in studying deep fields and tracing galaxies back to the beginning of cosmic time.


WASP-96b (spectrum): Webb’s detailed observation of this hot, puffy planet outside our solar system reveals a clear signature of water along with evidence of haze and clouds that previous studies of this planet did not detect. With Webb’s first detection of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, it will now set out to study hundreds of other systems to understand what other planetary atmospheres are made of.


Southern Ring Nebula: This planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of gas surrounding a dying star, is approximately 2,000 light-years away. Here, Webb’s powerful infrared eyes bring a second dying star into full view for the first time. From birth to death as a planetary nebula, Webb can explore the expelling shells of dust and gas of aging stars that may one day become a new star or planet.


Stephan’s Quintet: Webb’s view of this compact group of galaxies, located in the constellation Pegasus, pierced through the shroud of dust surrounding the center of one galaxy to reveal the velocity and composition of the gas near its supermassive black hole. Now, scientists can get a rare look, in unprecedented detail, at how interacting galaxies are triggering star formation in each other and how the gas in these galaxies is being disturbed.


Carina Nebula: Webb’s look at the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ in the Carina Nebula unveils the earliest, rapid phases of star formation previously hidden. Looking at this star-forming region in the southern constellation Carina, and others like it, Webb can see newly forming stars and study the gas and dust that made them.


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Sophie Sanchez

I’ve turned a lifetime fascination for space exploration and astronomy into a career writing, speaking, and creating STEM programming about all things space. Until I get the chance to experience space for myself I’ll share the stories of every mission of a lifetime I have the opportunity to witness.

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