James Webb and the Deep Space Wonders

Dr. Munr Kazmir
5 min readSep 24

The wild ride of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope continues across the cosmos. What will it reveal next?

Composite image combining data from Webb’s MIRI and NIRCam instruments. A large spiral galaxy takes up the entirety of the image. The core is mostly bright white, but there are also swirling, detailed structures that resemble water circling a drain. There is white and pale blue light that emanates from stars and dust at the core’s center, but it is tightly limited to the core. The rings feature colors of deep red and orange and highlight filaments of dust around cavernous black bubbles. August 29, 2023. (Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Adamo and the FEAST JWST team)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, space-based observatory and the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. It is named after James E. Webb, who served as the second administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 and played a significant role in the Apollo program that landed the first humans on the Moon.

The telescope was launched on December 25, 2021, atop an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. After launch, it underwent a complex unfolding process in space to deploy its sunshield, mirrors, and other critical components. The sunshield, made up of five layers, helps keep the telescope’s instruments at extremely cold temperatures to enhance its infrared observations.

Since its triumphant launch, the JWST has been astounding NASA scientists and amateur stargazers all over the world. Its latest photos are no exception.

“Seen here is a composite image of galaxy M51 (also known as NGC 5194 also known as the Whirlpool) using both MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) and NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera) data from the Webb telescope,” says NASA of the above image. “The gravity of M51’s neighbor, the dwarf galaxy NGC 5195, is thought to be partially responsible for those prominent and distinct spiral arms!”

The image showcases a series of bow shocks to the southeast (lower-left) and northwest (upper-right) as well as the narrow bipolar jet that powers them in unprecedented detail. Molecules excited by the turbulent conditions, including molecular hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and silicon monoxide, emit infrared light, collected by Webb, that map out the structure of the outflows. September 14, 2023. [Photo Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, T. Ray — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Dublin)]

“Seen in this Webb image is a newborn star with supersonic jets of gas spewing from its poles. It’s only a few tens of thousands of years old here, but when it grows up, it’ll be much like our Sun,” say NASA scientists of the above photo.

“At the center is a thin horizontal pinkish cloud known as Herbig-Haro 211 that is uneven with rounded ends, and tilted from bottom left to top right,” says NASA. “It takes up about two-thirds of the length of this angle but is thinner and longer at the opposite angle.

“At its center is a dark spot,” NASA continues. “On either side of the dark spot, there are orangish yellow wisps that extend to light blue wisps. Within the center of those clouds, a pink fluffy streak runs through each…