Here’s our 5 favourite James Webb Space Telescope images from 2022

In just six months The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has made quite a splash after the first full colour photo drop arrived in July.

Since then we’ve peeped on Jupiter, spotted cyclic carbon circling black holes, taken an incredible photo of the Pinwheel Galaxy, and more.

Here’s our five favourite JWST images for 2022:

Carina Nebula

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI.

We’ve got to start with this wonderful, star studded pic of the Carina Nebula. This image was part of the first images to be distributed and shows a young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 that was previously obscured.

This ‘Cosmic Cliff’ showcases JWST’s cameras’ capabilities to peer through cosmic dust, shedding new light on how stars form. And it’s just gorgeous!

Read more here.

Pink Cartwheel Galaxy

A round circle of stars and dust that looks similar to a wagon wheel against a black background with two smaller galaxies to the left
A large pink, speckled galaxy resembling a wheel with with a small, inner oval, with dusty blue in between on the right, with two smaller spiral galaxies about the same size to the left against a black background. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

This image gets me every time. The Cartwheel Galaxy is a ‘lenticular galaxy’, 500 million light years away in the Sculptor constellation

The image highlights the galaxy’s two rings — a bright inner ring and a surrounding, outer ring which looks a bit like the spokes on a wheel.

The inner ring contains hot dust, and the brightest areas are home to gigantic young star clusters. The outer ring, which has expanded for about 440 million years, is dominated by star formation and supernovas.

Read more (and see a few more images) here.

The Farthest Confirmed Galaxy

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, M. Zamani (ESA/Webb). Brant Robertson (UC Santa Cruz), S. Tacchella (Cambridge), E. Curtis-Lake (UOH), S. Carniani (Scuola Normale Superiore), JADES Collaboration.

This isn’t a spectacular, colourful image like the rest, but it is definitely worth a look.

What you’re seeing is four galaxies which date back to less than 400 million years after the Big Bang – That’s when the universe was only 2 percent of its current age.

One galaxy, called JADES-GS-z13-0, was imaged by JWST as it was 325 million years after the Big Bang. This would make it the oldest galaxy we’ve EVER discovered.

Read more here

Jupiter’s Auroras

Space image of jupiter with labels explaining the planet, as well as moons.
Webb NIRCam composite image of Jupiter system. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt.

Sometimes you look at an image in awe or wonderment. Sometimes you just think ‘what a show off!’ That second one is how I feel about this image taken by JWST’s NIRCam of Jupiter’s auroras.

“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, Professor Emerita of the University of California, Berkeley.

The telescope is made for taking images of faraway galaxies, so the fact that we can image Jupiter at all is pretty spectacular.

Read more here.

Stephan’s Quintet

Main image galaxies stephans quintet sq nircam miri final 5mb
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

The image of Stephan’s Quintet composed from JWST data using the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) was also in the amazing first series of images to be distributed to the public.  

However, one of the galaxies (NGC7319) in this group of five, has been found to have carbon-based molecules near black holes, at the centre of the galaxy.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are small organic molecules very common in the universe (organic in the chemical sense: containing carbon and hydrogen).

But until this new data, from JWST’s MIRI, it was thought that they couldn’t exist close to black holes: they’d be pulled apart instead.

Read more here.

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