20 jaw-dropping images from NASA’s powerful new James Webb Space Telescope

james webb space telescope in space above the earth

The James Webb Space Telescope zooms away from the rocket’s last stage on Dec. 25, 2021. This is the last time a camera will capture Webb up close.NASA TV

Since its first day of observing the universe, the James Webb Space Telescope has taken stunning images of deep space.

cute nebula star forming region orange brown clouds of gas and dust with stars on bright blue background

The star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula, which Webb captured in the infrared.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The telescope uses infrared light, which allows it to peer beyond clouds of dust and gas into deep space.

Tarantula Nebula

On Sept. 6, NASA released an image of the Tarantula Nebula taken with Webb’s infrared instruments.Production team NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO

Webb is about 100 times more powerful than NASA’s previous space observatory, Hubble.

The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a snapshot of the Cartwheel galaxy, which is about 500 million light-years from Earth.

The Cartwheel Galaxy, which is located about 500 million light-years from Earth, imaged by Webb.Production team NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI and Webb ERO

That’s why Webb can peer deeper into space — and further back in time — than any previous telescope. The first deep-field image of him (shown here) reveals some of the earliest galaxies in the universe.

galaxies infrared stars jwst

The first deep-field infrared image from the James Webb Space Telescope, released on July 11, 2022.NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI

By collecting infrared light, Webb is able to cut through cosmic dust and see far into the past, up to the first 400 million years after the Big Bang.

Color image of CEERS-93316, a galaxy according to researchers that emerged only 235 million years after the Big Bang.

Color image of CEERS-93316, a galaxy according to researchers that emerged only 235 million years after the Big Bang.CEERS/UOE/SOPHIE JEWELL/CLARA POLLOCK

Webb shed new light on the iconic Pillars of Creation, gigantic clouds of gas and dust that constantly give birth to new stars. In near-infrared light, thousands of stars explode, including newborn red stars.

The pillars of creation are highlighted in a kaleidoscope of color in the near-infrared view of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.  The pillars look like arches and spiers rising from a desert landscape, but they are filled with semi-transparent, ever-changing gas and dust.  This is a region where young stars are either forming or have just emerged from their dusty cocoons as they continue to form.

The Pillars of Creation, taken in Webb’s near-infrared view.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI).

In the mid-infrared, the dust itself takes center stage.

Mid-infrared view of the Pillars of Creation from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

Webb’s mid-infrared view of the Pillars of Creation.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

By combining the data from these two images, NASA has rendered an entirely new and ethereal portrait of the pillars.

pillars of creation gray dust spiers with purple orange space background full of stars

A combined image of the Pillars of Creation from two cameras aboard Webb, in mid-infrared and near-infrared.SCIENCES: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI)

In July, Webb captured the Southern Ring Nebula, a massive cloud of dust and gas 2,000 light-years from Earth.

Southern Ring Nebula Infrared bubbles of colored gas and dust surround two stars

The Southern Ring Nebula, which Webb captured in near-infrared light.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Tendrils of star-forming regions connect the nuclei of these two merging galaxies and make them much brighter in the infrared.

two colored galaxies merging in space

A pair of merging galaxies captured by Webb.ESA/Webb, NASA and CSA, L. Armus, A. Evans

Webb also pivoted to focus on our solar system, astounding astronomers with this eerie infrared portrait of Jupiter.

Webb NIRCam composite image of Jupiter.

Webb’s NIRCam composite image of Jupiter.NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy Schmidt

The telescope also captured the faint rings surrounding Jupiter and the auroras that shine at its poles.

Wide field view of Jupiter, captured by Webb.  The blurry spots in the lower background are probably galaxies.

A wide-field view of Jupiter captured by Webb.NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt

Jupiter’s moon Europa shone brightly in Webb’s infrared. Scientists think Europa has a saltwater ocean, deep beneath its thick ice crust, that could harbor alien life.

Jupiter in infrared white and orange with the dark moon Europa surrounded by yellow light

Jupiter and its moon Europa, left, as seen through the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument.NASA, ESA, CSA and B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

Webb even spotted Neptune’s rings, which are a rare sight.

In this image from Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), a smattering of hundreds of background galaxies, varying in size and shape, appear alongside Neptune's system.

Neptune’s system, taken from Webb.NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI

It’s the best view of the planet’s dusty rings since NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Neptune in 1989.

Left, an image of Neptune's rings taken by Voyager 2 in 1989. Right, an infrared image of Neptune's rings taken by Webb.

Left, an image of Neptune’s rings that Voyager 2 captured in 1989. Right, Neptune’s rings that Webb imaged in infrared.NASA/JPL/ESA/STScI

The new image also shows seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons. The bright blue feature that looks like a star is actually Neptune’s largest moon, Triton.

Webb's NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) image of Neptune and its rings.  Neptune has 14 known satellites and seven of them are visible in this image.

Zooming in on Neptune shows that Webb has captured his rings. Neptune has 14 known satellites and seven of them are visible in this image.NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI

The infrared telescope also took images of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. It is the only moon in our solar system that has a dense atmosphere, four times denser than Earth’s.

Cloud evolution on Titan over 30 hours between November 4 and 6, 2022, as seen by Webb NIRCam (left) and Keck NIRC-2 (right).

Cloud evolution on Titan over 30 hours between November 4 and 6, 2022, as seen by Webb’s near-infrared camera at left.NASA, ESA, CSA, Webb Titan GTO Team/Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Webb captured NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft which successfully crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos, as part of the first planetary defense test.

This image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument shows Dimorphos, the lunar asteroid in the Didymos double asteroid system, approximately 4 hours after the impact of NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) .

This image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera instrument shows Dimorphos, the lunar asteroid in the Didymos double asteroid system, approximately 4 hours after the impact of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test.NASA, ESA, CSA, Cristina Thomas (Northern Arizona University), Ian Wong (NASA-GSFC) IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

In just over five months of science operations, Webb captured several beautiful shots of the cosmos.

bright colorful oval of two galaxies merging together red orange blue yellow in deep space

An intertwined pair of interacting galaxies, approximately 270 million light-years from Earth, imaged by Webb.ESA/Webb, NASA and CSA, L. Armus and A. Evans; Acknowledgments: R. Colombari

Scientists point out it’s just the beginning for NASA’s most powerful telescope.

A photo taken by the James Webb telescope shows Stephan's Quintet.

Stephan’s quintet is shown here taken from the James Webb Space Telescope.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

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