NASA on Tuesday unveiled images from the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful orbital observatory ever launched.
The pictures, designed to peer farther than before with greater clarity to the dawn of the universe, were hailed by NASA as milestone marking a new era of astronomical exploration.
Nearly two decades in the making, the $9 billion infrared telescope was launched on December 25, 2021. It reached its destination in solar orbit nearly 1 million miles from Earth a month later.
The crowning debut image, previewed on Monday by U.S. President Biden at the White House but displayed with greater fanfare on Tuesday, was a “deep field” photo of a distant galaxy cluster, SMACS 0723, revealing the most detailed glimpse of the early universe recorded to date.
Among the other Webb subjects were two enormous clouds of gas and dust blasted into space by stellar explosions to form incubators for new stars — the Carina Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, each thousands of light years away from Earth. The collection also included fresh images of another galaxy cluster known as Stephan’s Quintet, first discovered in 1877.