Images From The James Webb Space Telescope That Make Us Marvel At The Universe

List Rules

Vote up the images that fill you with awe.

When you stop to consider the mind-boggling size of the universe, yeah, it's easy to feel insignificant. When you puzzle over the challenges of exploring space with our frail, fleshy bodies, sure, it's intimidating. And is that endless abyss full of apocalyptic scenarios waiting to happen? Yes. But, friends, there is some gorgeous chaos out there.

More than two decades in the making and finally launched on December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the successor to the Hubble. It is the most powerful telescope to be launched into space, and currently resides 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 miles) from Earth. It is capable of gathering seven times the amount of light as the Hubble, offering us even deeper glimpses into the universe, and even further hints into its past.

We were stunned by the pictures of Saturn taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, but we're absolutely floored by the first color images from the James Webb. Enjoy these unparalleled peeks into our universe's past, and vote up the ones that take your breath away.

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    240 VOTES

    Galaxy Cluster SMACS 0723

    Galaxy Cluster SMACS 0723
    Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI / Space Telescope Science Institute / Public domain

    Known as "Webb's First Deep Field," this glimpse into galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 contains thousands of galaxies, "including some seen when the universe was less than a billion years old." Because of the time it takes light to travel the vast distances of the universe, this image is what the cluster looked like 4.6 billion years ago.

    One of the most amazing things about this image is that it took the JWST less than 13 hours to capture it. By comparison, similar deep field images taken by the Hubble telescope took weeks to piece together.

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    279 VOTES

    The 'Cosmic Cliffs' Of The Carina Nebula

    The 'Cosmic Cliffs' Of The Carina Nebula
    Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI / Space Telescope Science Institute / Public domain

    These "cosmic cliffs" are located in the Carina Nebula, specifically region NGC 3324, where new stars are born. The tallest "peaks" of these mountains measure about 7 light-years (for reference, 1 light year is 5.88 trillion miles long).

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    153 VOTES

    The Carina Nebula (Hubble Vs. JWST)

    This side-by-side comparison offers a lavish example of how much more detail the JWST can capture than the Hubble. The top and bottom images depict the same region (NGC 3324) of the Carina Nebula, located in the constellation Carina. 

    The Hubble image (top) is a composite of data collected in 2006 and 2008, which combines the light emitted by hydrogen (green), sulfur (red), and oxygen (blue) gases. Because the JWST image (bottom) was collected using infrared data, we can actually see through the gas into the stellar field beyond. From NASA:

    Protostellar jets, which emerge clearly in this image, shoot out from some of these young stars. The youngest sources appear as red dots in the dark, dusty region of the cloud. Objects in the earliest, rapid phases of star formation are difficult to capture, but Webb’s extreme sensitivity, spatial resolution, and imaging capability can chronicle these elusive events. 

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    171 VOTES

    The Southern Ring Nebula

    The Southern Ring Nebula
    Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI / Space Telescope Science Institute / Public domain

    This is a near-infrared view of the Southern Ring Nebula, or NGC 3132. The nebula's source is not the bright star at the center of the image but a barely visible star beside it, which "has ejected eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years." From NASA:

    But the bright central star visible here has helped “stir” the pot, changing the shape of this planetary nebula’s highly intricate rings by creating turbulence. The pair of stars are locked in a tight orbit, which leads the dimmer star to spray ejected material in a range of directions as they orbit one another, resulting in these jagged rings.

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    147 VOTES

    The Southern Ring Nebula (Hubble Vs. JWST)

    This side-by-side comparison of the Southern Ring Nebula taken by the Hubble and James Webb telescopes provides a striking contrast in detail. The Hubble image was released on November 5, 1998. The James Webb image dropped on July 12, 2022. 

    The JWST image not only offers more detail of the nebula itself but the surrounding star field. NASA reports that the “transparent red sections of the planetary nebula – and all the areas outside it – are filled with distant galaxies.”

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    192 VOTES

    Stephan's Quintet

    Stephan's Quintet
    Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI / Space Telescope Science Institute / Public domain

    This view of five galaxies (also known as Hickson Compact Group 92) was woven together from nearly "1,000 separate image files." From NASA:

    Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. Most dramatically, Webb’s MIRI instrument captures huge shock waves as one of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster.