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NASA reveals more images from deep space via Webb Space Telescope

Dramatic pictures of a dying star, a quintet of galaxies and a star nursery are among the new looks into deep space.
This combo of images provided by NASA on Tuesday shows a side-by-side comparison of observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from the Webb Telescope.
This combo of images provided by NASA on Tuesday shows a side-by-side comparison of observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from the Webb Telescope. [ NASA, ESA, CSA, AND STSCI | NASA ]
Published Jul. 12|Updated Jul. 12

More images of the cosmos arrived on Tuesday morning from the largest space observatory ever built, the James Webb Space Telescope. And it was clear a new era of astronomy has begun.

The first Webb image was released by President Biden and NASA Monday night, showing some of the distant galaxies visible from the Southern Hemisphere on Earth and often visited by Hubble and other telescopes in search of the deep past.

On Tuesday, the space agency showed four more new images and a chart revealing the distinct signature of water on an exoplanet. The images included stunning views of a distant galaxy group called Stephan’s Quintet that was discovered in 1877, a stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula that plays host to many stars several times larger than the sun and the Southern Ring Nebula, a huge expanding shell of gas around a dying star.

The first new image released Tuesday was the dramatic picture of the Southern Ring Nebula and its pair of stars. The dimmer, dying star is expelling gas and dust that Webb sees through in unprecedented detail. The scene in the image began when a star shuddered and died, launching its own atmosphere into space like an expanding soap bubble.

This image provided by NASA on Tuesday shows Stephan's Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, as observed from the Webb Telescope.
This image provided by NASA on Tuesday shows Stephan's Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, as observed from the Webb Telescope. [ NASA, ESA, CSA, AND STSCI | NASA ]

Webb’s use of the infrared light spectrum allows the telescope to see through the cosmic dust and “see light from faraway light from the corners of the universe,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

A visual grouping of five galaxies called Stephan’s Quintet showed a snippet of the night sky where five galaxies appear to be almost touching each other. In 1877, Edouard Stephan, a French astronomer, was the first to spot the group, located in the constellation Pegasus.

The grouping is actually a bit of an optical illusion. The galaxies range from about 40 million light-years from Earth to nearly 290 million light-years away. They are part of what astronomers call a compact group of galaxies.

“The new details from Webb will transform our understanding of how stars evolve and influence their environments,” according to NASA.

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals previously invisible areas of star birth the first time .
This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals previously invisible areas of star birth the first time . [ NASA, ESA, CSA, AND STSCI | NASA ]

NASA’s next image was of “stellar birth,” which showed areas of space never seen before in our own Milky Way. Located 7,600 light-years away, the Carina Nebula is a stellar nursery, where stars are born. It is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky and home to many stars much more massive than our sun.

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The picture reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. The “Cosmic Cliffs” displayed in the stunning new image show what look like mountains and valleys and reveal previously hidden baby stars, providing “a rare peek into stars in their earliest, rapid stages of formation,” according to NASA.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star. The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star. The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away. [ NASA/ESA/CSA/STSCI | NASA ]

The space agency also released a chart showing Webb’s study of the giant gas planet WASP-96b. It is the most detailed spectrum of an exoplanet to date, NASA said. The spectrum includes different wavelengths of light that can reveal new information about the planet.

Discovered in 2014, WASP-96b is located 1,150 light-years from Earth. It has half the mass of Jupiter and completes an orbit around its star every 3.4 days. Webb’s spectrum includes “the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star,” according to NASA.

“You’re actually seeing bumps and wiggles that indicate the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere of this exoplanet,” said Knicole Colon, a NASA astrophysicist,

The images were preceded by Monday’s reveal of a massive cluster of galaxies about 4 billion light-years from Earth. The cluster’s enormous gravitation in the “deep field” image published Monday acts as a lens, warping and magnifying the light from galaxies behind it that would otherwise be too faint and faraway to see.

This image provided by NASA on Monday, shows galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope.
This image provided by NASA on Monday, shows galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. [ SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE OFFICE OF PUBLIC OUTREACH | AP ]

“We’ve really changed the understanding of our universe,” said European Space Agency director general Josef Aschbacher.

Information from NASA, the Associated Press and Tribune News Service was used in this report.

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