The Newest James Webb Image Looks Like a Tarantula

James Webb in outer space on Earth's orbit

The Newest James Webb Image Looks Like a Tarantula

On December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope launched into space on an Ariane 5 rocket. The 32-year project reignited excitement in space exploration as it set out to continue the historic work of the Hubble Telescope. With new infrared equipment and advanced technology, we can start to see the universe like never before.

Only 9 months into its mission directives, Webb has certainly delivered. From dazzling stellar nurseries to the furthest infrared images ever produced, scientists are already discovering new insights about the cosmos.

Continue reading for everything you need to know about the Tarantula Nebula, the newest James Webb image.

James Webb Image of the Tarantula Nebula

We’ve seen anticipation swell for the latest photos to return from the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s newest instrument set to succeed the legacy of Hubble. Only weeks ago, on September 7, 2022, NASA sent us the next great image. This time, we get to observe the Tarantula Nebula, one of the most active star-forming regions in the universe.

The Tarantula Nebula (officially labeled 30 Doradus) is a dense area of space dust left over from a dying star. The nebula floats like a cloud nearly 161,000 lightyears away in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.

Astronomers heavily study the Tarantula Galaxy for its similar composition to the universe’s Cosmic Noon, a period when the cosmos produced stars at its fastest rate.

James Webb telescope space image

James Webb Image

Although the Webb photo of the nebula reveals the clear sight of the “stellar nursery,” it actually received its name as it was studied by Hubble. The legacy instrument, while equipped with wide-field, ultraviolet technology, could not peer through the space dust. The resulting images showed dusty wisps that looked like giant spider legs. However, the murky photos only excited astronomers even more for Webb’s activation.

Astronomers compiled a mosaic of photos to produce a massive 122.5-megapixel image. The mosaic used three of the infrared instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope, which consisted of:

  • Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam)
  • Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec)
  • Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)

These tools read and analyze infrared wavelengths from a range of 0.6 to 25.0 microns. Unlike ultraviolet, infrared wavelengths pierce through space dust. This makes Webb perfectly suited to study the Tarantula Nebula.

The James Webb Space Telescope captured the most incredible images of the Tarantula Nebula.

What Else Does the James Webb Space Telescope Do?

Studying the Tarantula Nebula is one of Webb’s mission directives. One of the telescope’s four guiding objectives is to witness the lifecycle of new stars. As old stars die, they release a massive cloud of gas and dust, which is used to continue new lifecycles. Webb’s infrared technology allows it to look into these space clouds where Hubble can’t.

With its ability to look through space dust, the James Webb Space Telescope allows researchers to examine the composition of exoplanets. With excitement rising around the idea of interplanetary colonies, astronomers can now look for solar orbitals that could potentially support life.

The telescope’s infrared tools can also peer farther into the history of the universe than ever before. With a range of nearly 13.6 billion lightyears, Webb intends to see what the earliest galaxies looked like as they developed.

To achieve its objectives, the James Webb Space Telescope features a state-of-the-art design. Due to its incredible size, Webb’s 8-meter-diameter primary lens was split into 18 hexagonal mirrors that could fold for an easier launch. Once the telescope reached its spot at Lagrange Point 2 (L2), it unfolded its mirrors into their proper places.

The telescope also features a 5-layer heat shield the size of a tennis court. The heat shield is capable of reducing the force of the sun by a million times. This protects the telescope’s delicate infrared instruments, which require extremely cold temperatures to function properly. 

More James Webb Images

Carina Nebula

Just as the Tarantula Nebula is the birthplace of stars, so is the Carina Nebula just 7,500 lightyears away. The spectacular image shows formations in space dust that were created by ultraviolet radiation and forceful, stellar winds. The tallest mountains in the “Cosmic Cliffs” stand about 7 light-years high. 

Stephen’s Quintet

Nearly 300 million light-years away, this image shows the fascinating interactions between galaxies. Using Webb’s infrared vision, scientists can observe creative starburst regions and mixing space gas as each feature pushes and pulls from the others. Stephen’s Quintet also showcases a powerful collision as one galaxy rushes through the rest of the cluster.

Southern Ring Nebula

The Southern Ring Nebula, cataloged as NGC 3132, presents a unique space cloud as it pulses from a single star. Just as Webb uses infrared wavelengths to study the beginnings of these celestial bodies, its tools also unlock insights into their deaths. This image help researchers understand the molecular composition of space dust as they form.

James Webb nebula
The telescope has taken a number of other images, including the Southern Ring Nebula.

Webb’s First Deep Field

After only six months in stellar orbit, the James Webb Space Telescope produced its first image of deep space. This image shows a galaxy cluster cataloged as SMACS 0723, which is located about 4 billion light-years away. The image sets the record for the furthest infrared image ever recorded and is only a sample of what JWST is capable of.

James Webb Image: Further Reading

The James Webb Space Telescope is reaching its first year in orbit and has already presented fantastic insights into the creation of our universe. With four more years on its mission itinerary, we can continue to expect stellar revelations. While you wait for the next James Webb image, check out some of our other space-related articles.

Frequently Asked Questions

How far away is the James Webb telescope?

The James Webb Space Telescope is located at Lagrange Point 2, a spot in stellar orbit one million miles away.

How far away are the galaxies in the JWST image?

The James Webb Space Telescope recently captured a deep field image of a galaxy cluster located nearly four billion light-years away. This is the furthest infrared image ever recorded.

What is the cosmic Tarantula?

The Tarantula Nebula (also known as 30 Doradus) is a space dust cluster that is known for having high star-forming activity. It is the closest nebula to our solar system that shares attributes to the Cosmic Noon, a period in the universe’s lifetime where star formation was at its peak.

Is the Tarantula Nebula visible from Earth?

The Tarantula Nebula is located 161,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. It can be seen by the naked eye in the southern sky as a large milky patch.

How can I see the James Webb telescope images?

You can find the latest James Webb Space Telescope images on NASA’s website, where they share the files freely with the public.

How are James Webb images colorized?

Because the James Webb studies the universe in infrared waves, researchers must colorize its images. When Webb returns data, a computer translates it up to the electromagnetic spectrum, a wavelength that includes the colors we can see. It uses 29 narrowband filters and assigns each a color from red to blue. The result is the image that is presented to the public.

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