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The 8 most special JWST images of 2024 so far




The 8 most special JWST images of 2024 so far

Gaze into the otherworldly beauty of spiral galaxies and dusty nebulae.

Globular star cluster NGC 6440 orbits within the Milky Way’s galactic bulge. Observing the densely packed star clusters was a challenge until JWST came along. ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, P. Freire; With thanks to: M. Cadelano and C. Pallanca

Nearly a million kilometers away from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope studies the cosmos.

Since its launch on December 25, 2021, JWST has provided groundbreaking insights into the history of our universe. And 2024 was no different. This year, JWST has already measured ‘hot Jupiter’, recorded the birth of stars, found evidence of a neutron star in fiery supernova remnants and brought new insights into the study of spiral galaxies with wavy arms.

We’ve rounded up eight of our favorite JWST images from 2024 that capture the awe-inspiring glory of space.

A bright young star, located in the upper left quadrant, shines through layers of wispy white and blue clouds on a dark background.  The star is surrounded by thick orange points in an eight-pointed pattern, spanning most of the image.  A patch of greenish-yellow clouds appears at the top right of the image.  There are a few other bright spots visible as glowing yellow dots among the clouds, as well as another bright star with smaller blue diffraction peaks in the lower right corner.
Within the Large Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way) lies N79, a massive star-forming complex. N79 is pumping out stars impressively fast, much faster than comparable regions in our Milky Way.
Image: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, O. Nayak, M. Meixner ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, O. Nayak,
Many small galaxies are scattered on a black background: mainly white, oval and red, spiral galaxies.  The image is dominated by an irregular dwarf galaxy, which at its core is home to a bright region of white and blue stars that appear as two separate lobes.  This area is surrounded by brown dusty filaments.  Visible in the lower center of the image is a companion galaxy that appears as a collection of blue stars.  In the upper right corner is a very prominent, bright star with eight long diffraction peaks.
At the heart of I Zwicky 18 are two star formation bursts. The irregular dwarf galaxy was first identified in the 1930s, but scientists are using Webb’s powerful resolution and sensitivity in the infrared to take a closer look at I Zwicky 18 and study the life cycle of stars.
Image: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, A. Hirschauer, M. Meixner et al.
In Webb's image, the spiral arms are composed of many filaments in shades of orange.  Thin fabric strips connect from the core, via the rod to the spiral arms.
About 32 million light-years from Earth lies NGC 1433, a spiral galaxy with a luminous center.
Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), PHANGS team
About a third of the way up, a lumpy dome of blue-gray clouds rises.  Above this, striped, translucent red strands brush up about halfway across the image.  The top half of the image is the black background of space with one prominent, bright white star with Webb's 8-point diffraction peaks.  There are other stars and galaxies scattered throughout the image, although very few can be seen through the thick clouds at the bottom and all are considerably smaller than the largest star.
JWST has captured the sharpest infrared images of the Horsehead Nebula’s “moons” yet. Young stars can be seen sparkling within the heavenly blue-gray cloud.
Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Karl Misselt (University of Arizona), Alain Abergel (AIM Paris-Saclay)
In the center of the image there is a nebula on the black background of space.  The nebula consists of wispy filaments of pale blue clouds.  In the center right of the blue clouds is a large hollow bubble.  The lower left edge of this hollow bubble is filled with shades of pink and white gas.  There are hundreds of faint stars filling the nebula's surroundings.
Hot, massive stars lurk in the dust of NGC 604 early in their lives. The star-forming region is in the Triangulum Galaxy, 2.73 million light-years away.
A barred spiral galaxy on a dark, almost blank background.  The entire galaxy glows with a pale blue light, especially along the galaxy's bar, which runs from top to bottom through the galaxy's core.  It is littered with little stars.  The center is surrounded by rich clouds of hot gas and dust along the arms.  The coral-colored arms are loosely wound and a bit ragged, and contain some star-forming regions that shine brightly
Hidden behind large amounts of dust, JWST captured young stars in the massive arms of NGC 1559, a barred spiral galaxy 35 million light-years from Earth.
Image: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Leroy, J. Lee and the PHANGS team ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Leroy,
A directly opposed spiral galaxy with four spiral arms curving outward counterclockwise.  The spiral arms are filled with young, blue stars and peppered with purplish star-forming regions that appear as small blobs.  The center of the galaxy is much brighter and yellower, and has a distinct narrow linear bar at an angle of 11 o'clock to 5 o'clock.  Dozens of red background galaxies are scattered across the image.  The background of the room is black.
Data from the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes were combined to capture this image of NGC 5468, a galaxy located about 130 million light-years from Earth.
Image: Webb NIRCam + Hubble WFC3