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NASA’s JWST telescope delivers deep infrared images of Universe

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered the most detailed and vivid images of the early Universe to date. Within these snapshots, thousands of distant galaxies are visible.

Feast your eyes on the deepest infrared images of the universe to date. I’ve got a headache.

These mind-blowing snaps arrive courtesy of NASA and its powerful James Webb Space Telescope. Unsurprisingly, the results are transfixing millions across social media.

Firstly, the $10bn state-of-the-art device captured the same gorgeous slither of space as the Hubble Space Telescope decades before – but in far more detail. This region of the cosmos is known as SMACS 0723 and is located some 4.6bn light-years away.

Credit: NASA

The light from some of the galaxies gathered by the JWST’s 21-foot-wide mirror had travelled roughly 13bn years to arrive there. Fathom that, if you can.

In terms of scope, this part of the Universe is equivalent to holding a grain of sand on the tip of your finger at full arm’s length, according to NASA administrator Bill Nelson.

See the vast difference between the Hubble and JWST captures below.

The final result we’re marvelling at now was achieved from layering a composite of images at different wavelengths over a span of 12.5 hours. By contrast, it took the Hubble satellite around a week to complete the same render in the 90s.

The JWST’s more vivid and accurate representation is possible thanks to its ability to gather light from within very thin layers of gas surrounding both distant planets and galactic phenomenon within our own solar system.

While previously, nearby stars had drowned out this faint light to the point it was essentially undetectable, the precision and power of the latest telescope means it doesn’t suffer from the limitations of its predecessor.

‘The gravity of the cluster is distorting and warping our view of what’s behind,’ Jane Rigby, operations project scientist for JWST at NASA, said during a briefing.

‘There are these galaxies that look stretched and pulled, kind of like they’ve been magnified – because they’ve been magnified by the gravity of the cluster just like Einstein said they would.’

From this point on, otherworldly observations will provide a much fuller spectrum of colour and activity than we’ve been accustomed to. This will help immeasurably in the quest to learn more about the Universe and how everything was formed.

If that’s whet your appetite, NASA has just released even more tantalising images showing vibrant nebulas and exotic galaxies in unprecedented levels of detail. Here’s what we’ve got so far.

The Southern Ring Nebula

Credit: NASA

Marvel at this beauty. Known as the Southern Ring Nebula, this looks like a giant blue ring in the night sky and is sometimes dubbed the ‘Eight Burst’ Nebula, for its resemblance to a sideways figure-eight at particular viewpoints.

Spanning half a light-year wide, this constantly expanding mass of gas houses a dying binary star at its centre – visible here as a prominent spec of light. The filaments of wispy light surrounding it are said to be moving at nine miles per second. Beautiful chaos.

Stephan’s Quintet

Credit: NASA

This is a gaggle of five different galaxies in one image, crazy right?

Each are surrounded by a dense array of stars twinkling in blue and red hues – which correspond to their Universal ages, according to experts.

One of the galaxies is said to be in the foreground closer to us, but the rest are within a relatively closed proximity. Their shapes appear distorted in the image as a mirage of gravitational forces are pulling light in all different directions.

The Carina Nebula

Credit: NASA

Far and away the most striking image within the current crop, this landscape of cosmic mountains and valleys is referred to as the Cosmic Cliffs.

Infrared tech on the JWST reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth on a mass scale. Though the stars aren’t so visible here, the reef of cosmic dust is a big giveaway for those who know what they’re looking for.

This frame shows the edge of a giant gaseous cavity within the NGC 3324 (the southern constellation Carina).

Approximately 7,600 light-years from Earth, this frenzied aesthetic is formed by intense radiation and stellar winds from infant stars located in the centre of the region – above this image, unfortunately.