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Caught in the Webb

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

First images of another universe captivate the world

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has captivated the world over the past week, with cosmic imagery powerful enough to sway even the most rigid of humans. Black hole breakdowns, galaxy cross-sections, entire new universes (!)—these would all be cool in theory alone—even if P-Funk illustrated them forty years ago. But it's the color, detail, and variety that have tapped into public awe.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far. Webb’s First Deep Field is galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and it is teeming with thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared.

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

A breakdown of three black holes.

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