The best space pictures from JWST

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is living up to its hype.

Since becoming operational in July 2022, the observatory has delivered a steady stream of beautiful cosmic pictures. These images help scientists look back through time at our early Universe, examine planets orbiting other stars, and monitor worlds in our own Solar System.

Like images from the Hubble Space Telescope, JWST pictures are also meant to inspire the public. The telescope’s infrared detectors are revealing an unseen Universe and showing us familiar objects in an unfamiliar light.

Here are some of our favorite images captured by JWST thus far:

Neptune’s rings
Neptune’s rings Neptune and its rings shine in this infrared image captured by JWST and released by NASA on Sept. 21, 2022. Not since Voyager 2 flew past Neptune in 1989 have the planet’s rings been revealed in such clarity. Six small moons near the planet are visible, while Triton shines brightly to the upper-left. The icy moon reflects an average of 70 percent of sunlight that hits it.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI. Image processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI).
Tarantula Nebula as seen by JWST
Tarantula Nebula This image of the Tarantula Nebula captured by JWST and released by NASA on Sept. 6, 2022 spans 340 light-years across. The observatory's infrared detectors revealed a cluster of never-before-seen young stars at the center of the image that were previously shrouded by dust.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team
Exoplanet HIP 65426 b
Exoplanet HIP 65426 b This image shows four JWST views of exoplanet HIP 65426 b in different bands of infrared light. The bar appearance in the NIRCam images is an artifact of the telescope’s optics. The white star icon in each image shows the location of the exoplanet's actual star, which was blocked by a coronagraph.Image: NASA/ESA/CSA, A Carter (UCSC), the ERS 1386 team, and A. Pagan (STScI)
Phantom Galaxy
Phantom Galaxy JWST peered through dust and gas to see a star cluster at the center of M74, the Phantom Galaxy. M74 is a particular class of spiral galaxy known as a ‘grand design spiral’, meaning that its spiral arms are prominent and well-defined. NASA released this image on Aug. 29, 2022.Image: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team
Jupiter and its rings from JWST
Jupiter and its rings from JWST JWST's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured this image of Jupiter showing its auroras, rings, and moons Amalthea and Adrastea. NIRCam has three specialized infrared filters that showcase details of the planet. Since infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the light has been mapped onto the visible spectrum. Generally, the longest wavelengths appear redder and the shortest wavelengths are shown as more blue. Scientists collaborated with citizen scientist Judy Schmidt to translate the Webb data into images.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt.
Jupiter's auroras from JWST
Jupiter's auroras from JWST JWST's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured this image of Jupiter. NIRCam has three specialized infrared filters that showcase details of the planet. Since infrared light is invisible to the human eye, the light has been mapped onto the visible spectrum. Generally, the longest wavelengths appear redder and the shortest wavelengths are shown as more blue. Scientists collaborated with citizen scientist Judy Schmidt to translate the Webb data into images.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy Schmidt
Cartwheel Galaxy
Cartwheel Galaxy This image of the Cartwheel Galaxy and its companion galaxies is a composite from JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). NASA released the image on Aug. 2, 2022.The Cartwheel Galaxy formed after a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy not visible in this image.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team
JWST Carina Nebula
JWST Carina Nebula The James Webb Space Telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured this stunning view of the Carina Nebula, located about 7,500 light-years from Earth. Nicknamed the "cosmic cliffs," it is essentially a nursery for young stars, some of them several times larger than our own Sun.Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
JWST Southern Ring Nebula
JWST Southern Ring Nebula The Southern Ring or “Eight-Burst” nebula is a planetary nebula located about 2,000 light-years from Earth. These side-by-side images show a star's death; gas emanating from a dying star. Both images were taken by NASA's JWST in near-infrared light (left) and mid-infrared light (right).Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
JWST Stephan’s Quintet
JWST Stephan’s Quintet Stephan’s Quintet is the name given to a visual grouping of five galaxies located about 290 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. NASA's JWST was able to show shock waves, tidal tails, and more astonishing details about these distant galaxies. Four of the five galaxies in Stephan's Quintet regularly interact with each other, creating the stunning display we see here.Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
JWST's First Deep Field Image
JWST's First Deep Field Image JWST's first science image was released a day early, on July 11, 2022, in an address by the President of the United States, Joe Biden. This deep field image is the highest-resolution and deepest infrared view of our Universe taken to date. The light from these galaxies is gravitationally lensed by the mass of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 in the foreground. It causes their light to be warped into beautiful arcs. This image shows SMACS 0723 as it was 4.6 billion years ago, but the background galaxies are much further away. The furthest light in this image has taken over 13 billion years to reach us. This image represents a part of the sky that's so small that it could fit behind a grain of sand on the tip of your finger held at arm's length.Image: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI
JWST's first selfie
JWST's first selfie This “selfie” of JWST was created using a specialized pupil imaging lens inside of the NIRCam instrument that was designed to take images of the primary mirror segments instead of images of space. This configuration is not used during scientific operations and is used strictly for engineering and alignment purposes. In this case, the bright segment was pointed at a bright star, while the others aren’t currently in the same alignment. This image gave an early indication of the primary mirror alignment to the instrument.Image: NASA