James Webb Space Telescope

Webb is the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It studies every phase in the history of our Universe.

active Mission
A montage of the Webb Space Telescope over a composited background of stars and galaxies.

Webb studies every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. Webb launched on Dec. 25th 2021. It does not orbit around the Earth like the Hubble Space Telescope, it orbits the Sun 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) away from the Earth at what is called the second Lagrange point or L2. 

Mission Type

Astrophysics

Partners

NASA/ESA/CSA

Launch

Dec 25, 2021

Arrival at L2

Jan 24, 2022

Key Facts

This image is from Webb’s NIRCam instrument, which saw this nebula in the near-infrared.

extending the tantalizing discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Engineers Prep James Webb Telescope for Integration

So big it has to fold origami-style to fit in the rocket and will unfold like a “Transformer” in space.

Webb Lagrange Points

Webb orbits the Sun 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth. (Hubble orbits 560 kilometers above the Earth.)

NASA’s Webb Sunshield Successfully Unfolds and Tensions in Final Tests

Webb has a 5-layer sunshield that protects the telescope from the infrared radiation of the Sun, Earth, and Moon; like having sun protection of SPF 1 million.

The image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago

iIt will peer back in time over 13.5 billion years to see the first galaxies born after the Big Bang.in the ISS.

“In just two years, Webb has transformed our view of the universe, enabling the kind of world-class science that drove NASA to make this mission a reality,” said Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Webb is providing insights into longstanding mysteries about the early universe and ushering in a new era of studying distant worlds, while returning images that inspire people around the world and posing exciting new questions to answer. It has never been more possible to explore every facet of the universe.”

The telescope’s specialization in capturing infrared light — which is beyond what our own eyes can detect — shows these galaxies, collectively known as Arp 142, locked in a slow cosmic dance. Webb’s observations, which combine near- and mid-infrared light from Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), respectively, clearly show that they are joined by a haze represented in blue that is a mix of stars and gas, a result of their mingling.

Their ongoing interaction was set in motion between 25 and 75 million years ago, when the Penguin (individually cataloged as NGC 2936) and the Egg (NGC 2937) completed their first pass. They will go on to shimmy and sway, completing several additional loops before merging into a single galaxy hundreds of millions of years from now.

Arp 142, two interacting galaxies, observed in near- and mid-infrared light. At left is NGC 2937, nicknamed the Egg. Its center is the brighter and whiter. There are six diffraction spikes atop its gauzy blue layers. At right is NGC 2936, nicknamed the Penguin. Its beak-like region points toward and above the Egg. Where the eye would be is a small, opaque yellow spiral. The Penguin’s distorted arms form the bird’s beak, back, and tail. The tail is wide and layered, like a beta fish’s tail. A semi-transparent blue hue traces the Penguin and extends from the galaxy, creating an upside-down U over top of both galaxies. At top right is another galaxy seen from the side, pointing roughly at a 45-degree angle. It is largely light blue. Its length appears approximately as long as the Egg’s height. One foreground star with large, bright blue diffraction spikes appears over top of the galaxy and another near it. The entire black background is filled with tiny, extremely distant galaxies.
The distorted spiral galaxy at center, the Penguin, and the compact elliptical at left, the Egg, are locked in an active embrace. This near- and mid-infrared image combines data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), and marks the telescope’s second year of science. Webb’s view shows that their interaction is marked by a glow of scattered stars represented in blue. Known jointly as Arp 142, the galaxies made their first pass by one another between 25 and 75 million years ago, causing “fireworks,” or new star formation, in the Penguin. The galaxies are approximately the same mass, which is why one hasn’t consumed the other.
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Latest News

Webb's latest news releases in reverse chronological order. Search and sort the news feed with the controls immediately below.

Arp 142, two interacting galaxies, observed in near- and mid-infrared light. At left is NGC 2937, nicknamed the Egg. Its center is the brighter and whiter. There are six diffraction spikes atop its gauzy blue layers. At right is NGC 2936, nicknamed the Penguin. Its beak-like region points toward and above the Egg. Where the eye would be is a small, opaque yellow spiral. The Penguin’s distorted arms form the bird’s beak, back, and tail. The tail is wide and layered, like a beta fish’s tail. A semi-transparent blue hue traces the Penguin and extends from the galaxy, creating an upside-down U over top of both galaxies. At top right is another galaxy seen from the side, pointing roughly at a 45-degree angle. It is largely light blue. Its length appears approximately as long as the Egg’s height. One foreground star with large, bright blue diffraction spikes appears over top of the galaxy and another near it. The entire black background is filled with tiny, extremely distant galaxies.

Vivid Portrait of Interacting Galaxies Marks Webb’s Second Anniversary

Two for two! A duo of interacting galaxies commemorates the second science anniversary of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which takes constant observations, including images and highly detailed data known as spectra. Its operations have led to a “parade” of…

Article2 days ago
Dr. Begoña Vila, Instrument Systems Engineer, James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s Begoña Vila Awarded 2024 Galician Excellence Award

Begoña Vila, an instrument systems engineer from KBR who worked on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, has been selected to receive the 2024 Galician Excellence Title in the Sciences and Medicine Category for her career and work on Webb. This award…

Article6 days ago
A growing protostar embedded within a molecular cloud. The center of the image shows a bright, red region, where the growing protostar resides, with a thin, gray lane of matter cutting through it horizontally, which is the protostar’s accretion disk. Above and below this region are blue triangular-shaped molecular clouds, which give the overall object an hourglass shape. The areas in the molecular clouds closest to the protostar have more pronounced plumes of blue gas. There are red, yellow, orange, blue, and green stars and galaxies scattered across the background.

NASA’s Webb Captures Celestial Fireworks Around Forming Star

The colors within this mid-infrared image reveal details about the central protostar’s behavior. The cosmos seems to come alive with a crackling explosion of pyrotechnics in this new image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Taken with Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared…

Article2 weeks ago

Bente Eegholm: Ensuring Space Telescopes Have Stellar Vision

Bente Eegholm is an optical engineer working to ensure missions like the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope have stellar vision. When it launches by May 2027, the Roman mission will shed light on many astrophysics topics, like dark energy, which…

Article2 weeks ago


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Cas A - Chandra/Webb/Hubble/Spitzer composite