Recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have renewed a fascination of mine with outer space.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the JWST is designed to conduct infrared astronomy. It is the largest optical telescope in space with vastly improved resolution and sensitivity allowing it to view parts of space the Hubble Space Telescope is unable to make out.
These images are some of the clearest and most detailed images of distant stars and galaxies to ever be produced. Compared to the photos from the Hubble, these are far more detailed. They capture just how much of space we know almost nothing about. These images come from such a small part of the night sky it becomes unfathomable the sheer size of the universe.
The beauty in these images comes from more than merely capturing distant objects in space. The way it shows them in a spectrum of colour and shapes astounds me. The more I learn about some of the objects captured by the telescope, the more I get fascinated.
The following description of one of the images was incredibly beautiful in a way that brought meaning to the scene before me: “The blistering, ultraviolet radiation from the young stars [are] sculpting the nebula’s wall by slowly eroding it away. Dramatic pillars tower above the glowing wall of gas, resisting this radiation. The ‘steam’ that appears to rise from the celestial ‘mountains’ is actually hot, ionized gas and hot dust streaming away from the nebula due to the relentless radiation.”
What compels me to share these recent developments in space is what the images mean for space discovery and just how fascinating the technology behind the telescope is.
The JWST reveals emerging stellar nurseries (an area of outer space in which gas and dust are contracting, resulting in the formation of new stars) and individual stars that are completely hidden in visible-light pictures. According to NASA the objects in the earliest phases of star formation are difficult to capture, but the extreme sensitivity, spatial resolution, and imaging capability of the JWST can catalogue these elusive events.
I will be following the release of each subsequent image as they come in, excited to learn the story behind each distant star and galaxy. I hope the vast mysteries of outer space fascinate everyone else as much as they do me.
If you want to see more of the images for yourself, go to nasa.gov under the page titled Missions. They truly are a remarkable sight.