"Every image is a new discovery," says NASA administrator Bill Nelson as the space agency unveils a new batch of images from its new powerful space telescope.

This image shows a landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars which is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.
This image shows a landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars which is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. (AFP)

The James Webb Space Telescope has released a new wave of cosmic images, heralding a new era of astronomy.

"Every image is a new discovery," said NASA administrator Bill Nelson on Tuesday. 

"Each will give humanity a view of the universe that we've never seen before."

Released one by one, the new images demonstrated the full power of the $10 billion observatory, which uses infrared cameras to gaze into the distant universe in unprecedented clarity.

The latest tranche included the "mountains" and "valleys" of a star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula, dubbed the "Cosmic Cliffs," 7,600 light years away.

A landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars which is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. This image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.
A landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars which is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. This image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. (AFP)

On Monday, Webb revealed the clearest image to date of the early universe, going back 13 billion years.

One new image on Tuesday shown water vapour in the atmosphere of a faraway gas planet. 

The spectroscopy - an analysis of light that reveals detailed information - was of planet WASP-96 b, which was discovered in 2014.

The bright star at the center of NGC 3132, the Southern Ring Nebula, for the first time in near-infrared light. A second star, barely visible at lower left along one of the bright star’s diffraction spikes, is the nebula’s source. It has ejected at least eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years.
The bright star at the center of NGC 3132, the Southern Ring Nebula, for the first time in near-infrared light. A second star, barely visible at lower left along one of the bright star’s diffraction spikes, is the nebula’s source. It has ejected at least eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years. (AFP)

Nearly 1,150 light-years from Earth, WASP-96 b is about half the mass of Jupiter and zips around its star in just 3.4 days.

"We've seen the effect of what happens when a planet and its atmosphere passes in front of the star, and the star light filters through the atmosphere, and you can break that down into wavelengths of light," said NASA's Knicole Colon.

"So you're actually seeing bumps and wiggles that indicate the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere of the planet."

A visual grouping of five galaxies, in a new light. This enormous mosaic is JWST’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.
A visual grouping of five galaxies, in a new light. This enormous mosaic is JWST’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. (AFP)

Other targets that will be released include Carina Nebula, a stellar nursery, famous for its towering pillars that include "Mystic Mountain," a three-light-year-tall cosmic pinnacle captured in an iconic image by Hubble.

One stunning shot released by the White House on Monday was overflowing with thousands of galaxies and features some of the faintest objects observed.

Known as Webb's First Deep Field, it shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which acts as a gravitational lens, bending light from more distant galaxies behind it towards the observatory, in a cosmic magnification effect.

READ MORE: NASA to show Webb space telescope's first full-colour images

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has revealed the cloak of dust around the second star, shown at left in red, at the center of the Southern Ring Nebula for the first time. It is a hot dense white dwarf star.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has revealed the cloak of dust around the second star, shown at left in red, at the center of the Southern Ring Nebula for the first time. It is a hot dense white dwarf star. (AFP)

Launched in December 2021 from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket, Webb is orbiting the Sun at a distance of 1.6 million kilometres from Earth, in a region of space called the second Lagrange point.

Here, it remains in a fixed position relative to the Earth and Sun, with minimal fuel required for course corrections. 

A wonder of engineering, the total project cost is estimated at $10 billion, making it one of the most expensive scientific platforms ever built, comparable to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Stephan's Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies captured by the Webb Telescope's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).
Stephan's Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies captured by the Webb Telescope's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). (AFP)

Webb's primary mirror is over 6.5 metres (21 feet) wide and is made up of 18 gold-coated mirror segments. Like a camera held in one's hand, the structure must remain as stable as possible to achieve the best shots.

After the first images, astronomers around the globe will get shares of time on the telescope, with projects selected competitively through a process in which applicants and selectors don't know each other's identities, to minimise bias.

Thanks to an efficient launch, NASA estimates Webb has enough propellant for a 20-year life, as it works in concert with the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to answer fundamental questions about the cosmos.

READ MORE: NASA's Webb telescope offers deepest look of cosmos ever captured

Source: TRTWorld and agencies