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NASA's new telescope shows star death, dancing galaxies

See the stunning new images here.

WASHINGTON — NASA on Tuesday unveiled a new batch of images from its new powerful space telescope, including a foamy blue and orange shot of a dying star.

The first image from the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was released Monday at the White House — a jumble of distant galaxies that went deeper into the cosmos than humanity has ever seen.

The four additional photos released Tuesday included more cosmic beauty shots.

With one exception, the latest images showed parts of the universe seen by other telescopes. But Webb’s sheer power, distant location off Earth and use of the infrared light spectrum showed them in new light.

The photos are available in full quality on NASA's website.

Webb captured the latest image of the planetary nebula known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula, located about 2,500 light-years away. It shows an expanding cloud of gas surrounding a dying star. 

"The dimmer star at the center of this scene has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions, and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that this star is cloaked in dust," NASA said on its website.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and The E
This side-by-side comparison shows observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from NASA’s Webb Telescope. This scene was created by a white dwarf star – the remains of a star like our Sun after it shed its outer layers and stopped burning fuel though nuclear fusion. Those outer layers now form the ejected shells all along this view. In the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) image, the white dwarf appears to the lower left of the bright, central star, partially hidden by a diffraction spike. The same star appears – but brighter, larger, and redder – in the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) image. This white dwarf star is cloaked in thick layers of dust, which make it appear larger. The brighter star in both images hasn’t yet shed its layers. It closely orbits the dimmer white dwarf, helping to distribute what it’s ejected. Over thousands of years and before it became a white dwarf, the star periodically ejected mass – the visible shells of material. As if on repeat, it contracted, heated up – and then, unable to push out more material, pulsated. Stellar material was sent in all directions – like a rotating sprinkler – and provided the ingredients for this asymmetrical landscape. Today, the white dwarf is heating up the gas in the inner regions – which appear blue at left and red at right. Both stars are lighting up the outer regions, shown in orange and blue, respectively. The images look very different because NIRCam and MIRI collect different wavelengths of light. NIRCam observes near-infrared light, which is closer to the visible wavelengths our eyes detect. MIRI goes farther into the infrared, picking up mid-infrared wavelengths. The second star more clearly appears in the MIRI image, because this instrument can see the gleaming dust around it, bringing it more clearly into view. The stars – and their layers of light – steal more attention in the NIRCam image, while dust pl

NASA said Webb captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding WASP-96b. It’s about the size of Saturn and is 1,150 light-years away. 

A hot, puffy gas planet, it’s not a candidate for life elsewhere but a key target for astronomers. 

Credit: 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.

NASA revealed a new look at Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies in a cosmic dance. It was first seen 225 years ago in the constellation Pegasus. 

"This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files," NASA said. 

Credit: NASA
Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, as seen by Webb.

Tuesday's final image was a vista of stars and "mountains" on the edge of a star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. The "stellar nursery" is about 7,600 light-years away. 

"The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the center of the bubble, above the area shown in this image," NASA's website said.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
A stunning vista of a star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.

“Every image is a new discovery and each will give humanity a view of the humanity that we’ve never seen before,’’ NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday, rhapsodizing over images showing “the formation of stars, devouring black holes.”

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,” he said.

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

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO
President Joe Biden unveiled this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as Webb’s First Deep Field, during a White House event Monday, July 11.

The European and Canadian space agencies joined NASA in building the powerful telescope.

Webb is considered the successor to the highly successful but outdated Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble has stared as far back as 13.4 billion years. It found the light wave signature of an extremely bright galaxy in 2016. Astronomers measure how far back they look in light-years with one light-year being 5.8 trillion miles.

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