NASA’s new telescope reveals star death and dancing galaxies

Greenbelt, Md. – NASA on Tuesday unveiled a new set of images from its new powerful space telescope, including a frothy blue and orange image of a dying star.

The first image from the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was released Monday at the White House – a jumble of distant galaxies deeper into the cosmos than mankind has ever seen.

The four additional photos released Tuesday included more cosmic beauty shots.

With one exception, the latest images showed parts of the Universe seen by other telescopes. But Webb’s sheer power, remote location from Earth, and use of the infrared light spectrum showed them in a new light.

“Each image is a new discovery, and each one will give humanity a glimpse of humanity that we’ve never seen before,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday, raving about images that “depict the formation of stars and the… Devouring Black Holes”.


Webb’s use of the infrared light spectrum allows the telescope to see through cosmic dust and “see light from faraway lights from the corners of the universe,” he said.

“We have really changed the understanding of our universe,” said Director General of the European Space Agency Josef Aschbacher.

The European and Canadian space agencies joined NASA in building the powerful telescope.

Tuesday on tap:

– Southern Ring Nebula, sometimes referred to as the “Eight Burst”. About 2,500 light-years away, it shows an expanding cloud of gas surrounding a dying star. A light year is 5.8 trillion miles.

— Carina Nebula, one of the bright stellar nurseries in the sky, about 7,600 light-years distant.

— Five galaxies in a cosmic dance, 290 million light-years away. Stephan’s quintet was first seen 225 years ago in the constellation Pegasus.

— A bluish giant planet named WASP-96b. It is about the size of Saturn and 1,150 light-years away. As a gas planet, it is not a candidate for life elsewhere, but an important target for astronomers.


The images were released one at a time at an event at NASA’s Goddard Space Center, which featured cheerleaders wearing pom-poms the color of the telescope’s gold mirrors.

The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope was shot down from French Guiana in South America last December. It reached its vantage point 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth in January. Then began the lengthy process of aligning the mirrors, getting the infrared detectors cold enough to work, and calibrating the science instruments, all protected by a tennis court-sized umbrella that keeps the telescope cool.

Webb is considered the successor to the very successful but outdated Hubble space telescope.


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Sarah Y. Kim

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