James Webb is making a huge leap in space photography

NASA has shared a high-resolution image of a nearby galaxy, captured by the new James Webb Space Telescope.

For comparison, I also shared an image of the same galaxy taken by the now retired Spitzer Space Telescope, which was launched in 2003 and was the first to provide high-resolution images of the near and mid-infrared universe.

While the Spitzer image shows fog around seven nearby stars located in the Large Magellanic Cloud – a satellite galaxy orbiting the Milky Way – James Webb’s image captured the foreground stars in fine detail.

It also reveals more subtle details such as the soft clouds of interstellar gas and hundreds of stars and galaxies in the background in what NASA calls “unprecedented detail”.

The two images illustrate the huge advances in capable space photography with the new James Webb Telescope, now that all four of his science instruments are in “perfect alignment.”

‘I am pleased to report that the telescope’s alignment has been completed with better performance than we expected,’ said Michael McElwain, James Webb Space Telescope project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

“Essentially, we have achieved perfect telescope alignment. There is no modification to the telescope’s optics that would materially improve our science performance.”

The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was launched in December 2021 and is expected to be fully operational by the end of June 2022.