These days Instagram feeds have been flooded with shared images of space, almost abstract shots of the universe that show a mysterious and fascinating landscape. One image in particular has not only astronomical but also historical significance, as it is the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the universe ever taken. The shot was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s premier space science observatory, which NASA believes will help “solve the mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe.”
This deep field, imaged by Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera), captures a 4.5-billion-year-old portion of the universe, and it took the telescope several weeks to make it.
The telescope has taken sharp photos for the first time of distant galaxies that appear visible and tiny, clusters of stars that lived a billion years after the big bang. The kaleidoscopic composition has revealed to researchers important information about the formation of the universe, and it is possible to appreciate how the materials of which galaxies are made also determine their color, which is visible from the photograph. Blue galaxies contain stars, red objects indicate the presence of dust layers while green ones are made of hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds.
Webb has also taken other striking and fascinating images of the universe, among them the death of one star being engulfed by another younger one as it ejects gas and dust that the telescope has highlighted never before.
NASA also unveiled star formation called NGC 3324, the edge of a gaseous cavity hollowed out by ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds. In contrast, the unpublished image taken at the “Stephan Quintet” -a grouping of five galaxies located in the constellation Pegasus- is Webb’s largest image to date, covering one-fifth the diameter of the Moon.