We’ve now seen some of the clearest and best images of deep space in human history, as NASA has released the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope.
The images were unveiled during a special event Tuesday (July 12) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“This day gives a new meaning to as far as the eye can see,” Rep. Steny Hoyer from Maryland said during a news conference. “The vision of the world is greater today than it was yesterday. It will renown to the benefit to all people of this Earth.”
The four images released Tuesday included the Carina Nebula, the Southern Ring Nebula, Stephan’s Quintet and spectrum of WASP 96-b. More on what all that means below.
NASA unveiled the first of five images in a sneak peek Monday night, with President Biden showing the First Deep Field image at a White House press briefing.
The Webb Telescope essentially looks back in time some 13.5 billion years. That’s possible because of the distance many of these deep space objects are, and the amount of time it takes for light to travel from them to our eye.
For comparison sake, the James Webb Space Telescope sits about 1 million miles from Earth currently at a spot called “Lagrange Point 2.” At the speed of light, Webb is essentially 1.7 light years from us right now. And the images it is sending are of images 13.5 BILLION light years away. The Sun is about 93 million miles away, and its light takes about 8.3 minutes to get to us.
Webb’s journey to this point has been a long one. It launched from Earth on December 25, 2021 and took 30 days to get to its current location at Lagrange Point 2. That specific spot in space allows Webb to orbit at the same rate as Earth, giving it a sunscreen of sorts from its home planet.
🌟 A star is born!— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) July 12, 2022
Behind the curtain of dust and gas in these “Cosmic Cliffs” are previously hidden baby stars, now uncovered by Webb. We know — this is a show-stopper. Just take a second to admire the Carina Nebula in all its glory: https://t.co/tlougFWg8B #UnfoldTheUniverse pic.twitter.com/OiIW2gRnYI
The $10 billion project is designed to send it on a mission that will last 5 to 10 years. The project took 40 million total hours to build, including thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians from 14 countries and 29 U.S. states. It was first conceptualized starting in 1989, and construction began back in 2004.
Webb has spent the last few months going through cooldown, telescope alignment and other procedures allowing it to get ready for all its experiments.
We’ll see spectacular releases from Webb frequently in the future. But for now, here’s a look at the individual images unveiled Tuesday, representing the first to come from Webb.