NASA Releases New High-Definition Pictures of the Cosmos

On Tuesday, July 12, 2022, NASA released the first set of images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This telescope is equipped with complex and innovative imaging and messaging systems, allowing it to take and send pictures at unprecedented qualities. The revolutionary telescope is named after James E Webb, a former administrator for NASA. Webb garnered support both politically and financially for NASA during his eight years of service. NASA decided to name their premier telescope after Webb due to his profound influence on the furthering of science. 

 The JWST has spent nearly two decades in development, incurring numerous delays until its launch on December 25, 2021. A month later, it reached its intended orbit point, where it will remain to capture photographs. The JWST is planned to remain in its mission for ten years, although NASA’s Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy has stated that the JWST’s excess fuel may allow it to remain for much longer than this–up to ten additional years.

Why is this important? Well, as of late 2019, photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope were used in more than fifteen thousand scientific articles. Photographs may offer deeper insight into previously known facts, or they can lead to completely new discoveries altogether. The recently released photographs contain numerous subjects, such as the Carina and Southern Ring nebula, which are clouds of gas and dust often formed from the death or formation of a star. The photograph featured depicts the Southern Ring Nebula, which was formed from a dying star. According to NASA, the newly taken JWST picture showed that the star was cloaked by this dust. The picture also depicts “structures” created by expelled material from the star. Also photographed was WASP-96b’s atmosphere. During this time, WASP-96b passed in front of its star, creating a visible light interaction with the molecules in its atmosphere. Observing these interactions can aid in discovering the chemical composition of WASP-96b’s atmosphere. The insight offered by these photographs is extremely complex, yet NASA will continue to gather information from them. 

Since the JWST is only in its first few months, this batch of photographs is only the first to come. These high-definition photographs lend themselves to both scientific discovery and public appreciation. One can see that there is a substantial quality difference between the Hubble and JWST photographs featured, which shows that this new telescope offers more insight than past technology. With likely more than a decade remaining for the telescope to take pictures, this is just the beginning of a new era of deep-space discovery, and we are here to witness it.