This is a $10 billion gift to the world. A machine that shows us our place in the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope is launched Exactly one year ago, on Christmas Day. It took three decades to plan, design and build.
Many wondered if this successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope could really live up to expectations.
We had to wait a few months while it unpacked and focused its epic 6.5m primary mirror, and its other systems were tested and calibrated.
But, yeah, that’s all they said. The US, European and Canadian space agencies hosted a party in July Release the first color images. Some of the images you see on this page that you may have missed were posted later.
The first thing you should remember about James Webb is that it is an infrared telescope. It sees the sky at wavelengths of light beyond the reach of our eyes.
Astronomers use its different cameras to study regions of the universe like these giant towers of gas and dust. The pillars were Hubble’s favorite target. It would take you years to travel at the speed of light to traverse this entire scene.
read more: Web Telescope’s Ghostly ‘Creative Pillars’
They call this scene the Cosmic Cliffs. It is at the edge of a giant, gaseous cavity within another dusty, star-forming nebula called the Carina.
This crater has been carved by intense ultraviolet radiation and the winds of hot young stars.
The distance from one side of this image to the other is approximately 15 light years. A light year is about 9.46 trillion km (5.88 trillion miles).
This large galaxy on the right was discovered in the 1940s by the great Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky. Its complex cartwheel structure is the result of a head-on collision with another galaxy. The diameter is about 145,000 light years.
The planet Neptune
James Webb didn’t just see the deep universe. It also studies objects in our own solar system. This jewel is the eighth planet from the Sun: Neptune, with its rings. The smaller white dots around it are the moons, and the larger “point star” above. That’s Neptune’s largest moon, Triton. The spikes are an artifact of the way James Webb’s glass structure is constructed.
read more: Ringed Neptune captured by the James Webb Telescope
The Orion Nebula
Orion is one of the most famous regions of the sky. It is a star-forming region, or nebula, about 1,350 light-years from Earth. Here, Webb pictures a feature called the Orion Bar, a wall of dense gas and dust.
In one of the big space stories of the year, NASA sent a spacecraft to an asteroid called Dimorphos to see if it could deflect the path of a 160m-wide rock. It was a test of a strategy to protect Earth from threatening asteroids. James Webb caught a shower of 1,000 tons of debris.
read more: Asteroid deflection increased by experimental debris
This is one of the most interesting web images of the year. “WR” stands for Wolf-Rayet. It is a type of star, a massive star that is nearing the end of its lifespan. Wolf-rayettes shoot huge gas bubbles into space. A companion star, not seen in this image, compresses that wind and creates dust. The dusty shells you see are spread out over 10 trillion km. This is 70,000 times the distance between Earth and our Sun.
read more: A dusty stellar mystery solved by the James Webb Telescope
M74, nicknamed the Phantom Galaxy, is known for its fancy spiral arms. It’s about 32 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces, and almost directly facing us, Webb provides a perfect view of those arms and their structure. A telescope’s detectors are good at picking up all the tiny filaments of gas and dust.
You can still listen to Jonathan An innovation program for the BBC World Service In it he discussed the Webb project with its leading scientists and engineers.
If there’s one story to read about science on the Web over the past year, it’s this one: