The first images from NASA's $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) were revealed Tuesday at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The photos were the deepest views of the cosmos, a sight no one on Earth had ever seen before.
"These images, including the deepest view of our universe that has ever been taken, show us how Webb will help to uncover the answers to questions we don't even yet know to ask; questions that will help us better understand our universe and humanity's place within it," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release.
"The Webb team's incredible success is a reflection of what NASA does best. We take dreams and turn them into reality for the benefit of humanity. I can't wait to see the discoveries that we uncover – the team is just getting started!" Nelson continued.
The four images revealed on Tuesday were (list provided by JWST's website):
Carina Nebula: Webb's look at the 'Cosmic Cliffs' in the Carina Nebula unveils the earliest, rapid phases of star formation that were previously hidden. Looking at this star-forming region in the southern constellation Carina, as well as others like it, Webb can see newly forming stars and study the gas and dust that made them.
Southern Ring Nebula: This planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds 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.
SMACS 0723: Webb has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far – and in only 12.5 hours. 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. This image only scratches the surface of Webb's capabilities in studying deep fields and tracing galaxies back to the beginning of cosmic time.
JWST also examined an exoplanet named "WASP-96b," indicating water vapor was present in the plant's atmosphere.
On Monday evening, President Biden tweeted the first JWST image.
The first image from the Webb Space Telescope represents a historic moment for science and technology. For astronomy and space exploration.— President Biden (@POTUS) July 11, 2022
And for America and all humanity. pic.twitter.com/cI2UUQcQXj
NASA also provided an update on one of the telescope's mirrors, which was recently hit by a micrometeoroid.
And so the hunt for life begins, costing only $10 billion.