On the anniversary of NASA’s Webb telescope reaching its destination, here are the most striking images yet

On the anniversary of NASA’s Webb telescope reaching its destination, here are the most striking images yet

Tuesday marks one year since the James Webb Space Telescope reached its destination, orbiting 1 million miles from Earth.

Launched on Christmas Day in 2021, the Webb Telescope was a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency with the aim of studying the formation of the universe’s earliest galaxies, how they relate to the current galaxies, how our solar system developed and whether there is life on other planets.

It uses infrared radiation to detect objects in space and can view celestial objects that are generally invisible to the naked eye.

Since then, the Webb telescope has returned numerous images, including stars, planets and nebulae, and even galaxies millions of miles away.

Here are some of the most notable photos taken over the course of a year:

PHOTO: Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Nov. 2, 2016, in Greenbelt, Md.

Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Nov. 2, 2016, in Greenbelt, Md.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Distant galaxies

The first full-color image taken by the Webb telescope was unveiled at a July 11 press event at the White House hosted by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The image of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is the “deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant Universe to date,” according to NASA.

Distant galaxies

In the first James Webb Space Telescope image released on July 11, 2022, the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the early universe was taken in less than a day. Similar images from the Hubble telescope have taken several weeks to produce. The background of space is black as thousands of galaxies appear with varying shapes and colors. These galaxies are part of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 and distort the appearances of galaxies seen around them.

Space Telescope Scientific Institute/NASA

Thousands of galaxies can be seen in the image, but according to NASA, it is about the size of the equivalent of someone holding a grain of sand at arm’s length.

It was also the first time the public understood how much more powerful Webb is than its predecessor, the Hubble telescope, which sees only visible light, ultraviolet radiation and near-infrared radiation.

Cosmic cliffs

Unveiled at a NASA event on July 12, the image revealed new details about the Carina Nebula, located in the Milky Way galaxy.

Only the edge of the nebula can be seen, but the image shows hundreds of stars previously obscured by a cloud of gas and dust.

PHOTO: Behind the curtain of dust and gas in these Cosmic Cliffs are previously hidden baby stars, discovered by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in an image released July 12, 2022.

Behind the curtain of dust and gas in these Cosmic Cliffs are previously hidden baby stars, discovered by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in an image released on July 12, 2022.

NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

Dubbed the Cosmic Cliffs, the area exhibits a “gigantic, gaseous cavity” due to young stars that have recently been born pushing down ultraviolet radiation and creating the jagged edge.

The cloud-like structure of the nebula contains ridges, peaks, and valleys — an appearance that closely resembles a mountain range.

Jupiter in detail

On Aug. 22, NASA unveiled two new images of Jupiter taken by Webb, showing the planet’s atmosphere, rings and moons in never-before-seen detail.

The first image is a composite of swirls of different colors, suggesting Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere and the infamous Great Red Spot, which can produce winds of over 400 kilometers per hour.

The second image shows Jupiter’s rings, which NASA says are a million times fainter than the planet, and two of its moons, Adrastea and Amalthea.

Jupiter

An image of Jupiter captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, released Aug. 22, 2022, comes from the telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera, which has three specialized infrared filters that show details of the planet. In this wide view, Webb sees Jupiter with its faint rings, which are a million times fainter than the planet, and two small moons named Amalthea and Adrastea. The blurry spots in the lower background are likely galaxies “photobombing” this Jovian image.

Space Telescope Scientific Institute/NASA

Phantom Galaxy

First released on August 30 by the ESA, Webb captured an image of the Phantom Galaxy, which is about 32 million light-years away from Earth.

The Phantom Galaxy, also known as M74, has a low surface brightness, making it difficult to see and requiring clear, dark skies to do so. However, Webb’s sharp lens captured the clearest view of the galaxy’s features.

“These spiral arms are traced by blue and bursts of pink, these are star-forming regions,” NASA wrote in a social media post. “A speckled cluster of young stars glows blue in the heart of the galaxy.”

Phantom Galaxy

This image from the James Webb Space Telescope, released on August 31, 2022, shows the heart of M74, also known as the Phantom Galaxy. The telescope has revealed gray filaments that form a spiral pattern that spirals outward from the center of the galaxy. These spiral arms of the galaxy are outlined in blue and pink and represent areas where stars form. The heart of the galaxy is colored blue and has speckles, which are young stars forming around the core of the galaxy.

Space Telescope Scientific Institute/NASA

Pillars of Creation

NASA released an image of “The Pillars of Creation” — young, bright red stars in a billowing cloud of gas and dust — on Oct. 19

The Pillars of Creation are elephant trunks, a type of interstellar matter formation, located in the Eagle Nebula, which the space agency says is about 6,500 to 7,000 light-years from Earth.

Pillars of Creation

The “Pillars of Creation” have layers of semi-opaque rusty red gas and dust starting at the lower left and moving to the upper right in this image from the James Webb Space Telescope, released Oct. 19, 2022. The Pillars of Creation, first captured by the Hubble telescope in 1995, were photographed by the Webb telescope in near-infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. Seeing in infrared allows Webb to pierce through the dust and reveal many stars. Webb’s image more accurately identifies counts of newborn stars, along with the amounts of gas and dust.

Space Telescope Scientific Institute/NASA

Fiery hourglass

The Webb telescope, released Nov. 16, reveals a protostar, the early stages of a star’s birth.

The gas cloud in red and orange twists in the shape of a fiery hourglass.

As the material pulls in, the core will compress, get hotter and eventually begin nuclear fusion, creating a star.

Fiery Hourglass

The James Webb Space Telescope captures a fiery hourglass as a new star forms in an image released on Nov. 16, 2022. Hidden in the neck of this “hourglass” of light is the very beginnings of a new star, known as a protostar. This protostar is a hot, swollen lump of gas that is only a fraction of the mass of the sun. As the material pulls in, the core will compress, get hotter and eventually begin nuclear fusion, creating a star.

Space Telescope Scientific Institute/NASA

Coldest ice ever recorded

The latest image released by NASA ahead of its one-year anniversary shows a molecular cloud, where stars and planets are born, with icy ingredients.

The telescope shows the frozen form of elements, including carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur.

PHOTO: This image, taken by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), shows the central region of the dark molecular cloud Chamaeleon I, which is 630 light-years away.

This image, taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), shows the central region of the dark molecular cloud Chamaeleon I, which is 630 light-years away.

Space Telescope Science Institute/NASA, ESA, CSA and M. McClure

“We’re not talking about ice cubes,” NASA wrote in a post on social media on January 23. “This molecular cloud is so cold and dark that several molecules are frozen onto dust grains within. Webb’s data provides the first evidence that molecules more complex than methanol can form in the icy depths of such clouds before stars are born.”

Max Zahn of ABC News contributed to this report.

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