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James Webb Space Telescope images are so beautiful they bring scientists to tears

James Webb Space Telescope
Telescope Alignment Evaluation Image (Image credit: NASA/STScI)

NASA's acclaimed $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was launched on 25 December 2021, in replacement of the Hubble Space telescope. Nearly seven months after its launch has finally produced images that are, according to NASA, a portrayal that includes the deepest-field views of the universe ever captured! 

The images expected to be released publicly on 12 July 2022 are astounding, and supposedly beautiful enough to almost bring NASA astrophysicist (Thomas Zurbuchen) to tears. The hard work has paid off, with the JWST about to show us a whole new perspective of space, and an extensive look at the universe as we've never seen it before.

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With the coolest camera array in the solar system, we all had a sneak peak at the first-ever images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (opens in new tab) back in April, in the form of tester images, where it was compared in quality to the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope that first launched in 2003. 

Technology has come leaps and bounds since then, and the enhanced details and sharpness of these engineering test images (opens in new tab) were possible thanks to the JWST's large (7x bigger than the Spitzer)'s segmented honeycomb mirrors, measuring at a total of 21.5 ft in length.

These latest anticipated images (around 10-20 predicted) however are said to be so beautiful that Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, was very nearly brought to tears when he first viewed them, as stated in a recent press conference. 

Test image comparison with the Spitzer (Image credit: NASA)
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The Telescope's first full-color images that it has taken are said to provide a “new worldview” into the cosmos, according to Zurbuchen."It’s really hard to not look at the Universe in a new light and not just have a moment that is deeply personal." He shares, "It’s an emotional moment when you see nature suddenly releasing some of its secrets, and I would like you to imagine and look forward to that.”

The JWST is the most powerful telescope and space observatory ever to be launched into space, and was designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy and capture the faintest light in the universe, from the first generation of stars and galaxies, first formed over 13.8 billion years ago at the time of the Big Bang. 

Since its launch in December, the JWST has managed to unfold itself origami-style and get into the position where it will remain for the course of its mission, until 2028, and it has also successfully aligned all of its segmented mirrors in place, 18 in total.

(Image credit: NASA Goddard)
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By observing the past and looking farther beyond the light radiation that is yet to reach us, images produced from the JWST will likely surpass the Hubble Space Telescope's previous Ultra Deep Field survey image that captured nearly ten thousand galaxies, with the oldest visible ones dating back to around 800 million years after the Big Bang. With a much larger primary mirror, the JWST is capable of a much greater detection of invisible light penetrated by infrared waves.

Scientists plan to use the JWST to peer into the atmospheres of other worlds, searching for signs of potential life or habitability in the form of ammonia, water, and methane gas traces, and other biosignature discoveries. A soon to be golden age in our understanding of the wider universe, this might just be the tip of the iceberg on what NASA has under its sleeve, with talk of exoplanet spectrum studies.

NASA’s deputy administrator, Pam Melroy, has stated that "What I have seen moved me, as a scientist, as an engineer, and as a human being.” If this anticipated image reveal from NASA next week lives up to the current hype, we'll be pretty darn excited. 

Join the other astronomers, scientists, engineers, astrophotographers, and pretty much the entire world who are intrigued by the possibilities and potential of what this new golden age of space imagery means for the developing understanding of our universe, and be sure to set your calendars for Wednesday, July 12 2022. 

(Image credit: NASA Goddard)
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Check out the JWST image countdown (opens in new tab) landing page in anticipation for the first-light image release, and get live updates by visiting the official YouTube channel, NASA TV (opens in new tab), for a continuous live stream.

Once released one by one on 12 July 2022, the new images captured by the JWST will be available to view via NASA's website (opens in new tab) and will simultaneously be made available on social media. You can also experience these images revealed via a televised broadcast in real-time at 10:30am EST and hear from NASA experts in the live stream taking place on NASA TV's YouTube channel, scheduled for the same time. 

If you're feeling inspired to try capturing the universe yourself, check out the best camera for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.

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Beth Nicholls
Beth Nicholls

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.