We applaud the thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians from 14 countries, 29 states and Washington D.C. on the success of the largest telescope ever sent to space. In just 6 1/2 months, NASA's
Webb Space Telescope
traveled a million miles (1.5 million kilomesters) to its orbital "parking spot," unfolded and aligned its light-hungry mirrors and chilled in the vacuum of outer space to more than 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (240 below zero Celsius). Its chores finished, photography commenced.
Because the Webb is optimized to view the heavens in infrared light, which we sense as heat, it had to cool down behind its five-layer sunshield to shockingly-low temperatures so the telescope itself wouldn't glow in infrared light and ruin the images.
NASA released four photos and a spectrum (above) taken of the extraterrestrial planet
, a gas giant with half the mass of Jupiter located 1,150 light-years away in the southern hemisphere constellation Phoenix. WASP-96b is one of more than
exoplanets and orbits its sun every 3.4 days.
Additional images (below) feature a spectacular star-forming region in the Carina Nebula, the beautiful Southern Ring Nebula and its dying central star, and the deepest infrared photo of the sky ever taken.
In the deep image, thousands of galaxies are visible in the space of a grain of sand held at arm's length against the sky. If you multiply that number across the entire sky your tally would be nearly 2 trillion, the current estimate of the total number of galaxies in the observable universe. I know. I can barely get my head around it either.
Here are the high resolution versions of each of the photos. Just click and wallow in the detail: