Celestial Splendor: 10 Spectacular Images Taken by the James Webb Telescope in 2023

The James Webb Space Observatory (JWST), built at a cost of $10 billion and deployed in deep Earth orbit, continues to amaze with its detailed images of space.. In 2023, it showed what star explosions, galaxy clusters and the “heart” of the Milky Way look like.


Photo: NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), CSA (Canadian Space Agency) and STScI (Space Telescope Research Institute)

The Cassiopeia A nebula is the remains of a dead star 340 years after its explosion. This object is located in the constellation Cassiopeia at a distance of 11,000 light years from Earth. It is a cloud of debris expanding at a speed of 5000 km/sec.. In the JWST image, it extends over 10 light years (96 trillion kilometers).

Fiery orange and pink colors indicate areas where star material ejected by the explosion crashes into circumstellar gas and dust.. The radiance of these zones is explained by the high concentration of the star's constituent elements — sulfur, oxygen, argon and neon.

Cassiopeia A is the best object for performing an “autopsy” of a dead star. Using JWST, astronomers can “divide” it into regions with different gas compositions and see what types of dust formed in these regions. This will allow us to better understand how the building blocks of galaxies, planets and human bodies are created. Scientists believe that the calcium in our bones and the iron in our blood came from the remains of exploding stars.

molecular cloud

The molecular cloud Rho Ophiuchi is the closest star-forming region to Earth, located 390 light-years away.

About 50 luminaries are visible in the area imaged by JWST, whose masses are comparable to the mass of the Sun. The dark areas of the image represent dense gas in which protostars are formed — the embryos of stars that gain mass. Red jets, also called jets, are ionized gas ejected from newborn stars.

The glowing cave at the bottom of the image was “carved out” by the star S1 with its radiation in the gas and dust clouds surrounding it. It is the only star in the image that is significantly more massive than the Sun.

Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula is located about 6,500 light years from Earth, in the constellation Taurus.. This is an object 11 light years wide. It expands at a speed of about 1500 km/sec.

The Crab Nebula was born about 1,000 years ago when a supermassive star exploded and ejected its hot insides into space.. But the collapsed core of this star did not disintegrate. It turned into the Crab Pulsar, which became the strongest source of X-ray and gamma radiation in our Galaxy.. It rotates around its axis at a speed of 30 revolutions per second and generates energy with the power of 100 thousand Suns.

Wolf–Rayet star

The massive (about 30 times larger than the Sun) and bright star WR 124 is located about 15,000 light years from Earth, in the constellation Sagittarius. She is in a rare Wolf-Rayet phase. This is a relatively short period of time when nuclear fusion in a star's core stops and gravitational pressure causes it to collapse and then explode.

The image shows a huge glowing nebula 10 light years wide. This is a shell ejected by the star WR 124, the mass of which is 10 times the mass of our Sun.

Galaxy cluster

The galaxy cluster MACS0416 is located in the constellation Eridanus at a distance of about 4.3 billion light years from Earth.. It is about 4 million light years long and has a mass 420 times that of the Milky Way.

Colors give clues about distances: the bluest galaxies are closest and have intense star formation. Yellow and red are further away.

Herbig–Haro object

Hembrig-Haro (HH) objects are luminous regions around newborn stars. Pictured here is one such phenomenon, HH 211, observed 1046 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus.

At the center of this image is a class 0 protostar, an infant analogue of our Sun.. The age of this emerging star is only a few tens of thousands of years, and its current mass does not yet exceed 10% of the mass of the Sun.

During its formation, the star not only attracts matter from the surrounding nebula and disk, but also ejects some of the matter in the form of jets flying at a speed of 80–100 km/s. Crashing into the gas and dust shell of a star, the jet creates a shock wave. In the image of the object HH 211, two series of shock waves emanate from the protostar to the left-down and right-up, within which knotty narrow jets of gas are clearly visible.

«Heart» of the Milky Way

The very dense star-forming region Sagittarius C is located about 300 light-years from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.. Our Earth is 25,000 light years away from this “heart” of our galaxy.

The 50-light-year-wide image shows some 500,000 twinkling protostars in the Sagittarius C region. They produce emissions that shine like bright fires. The giant turquoise structure in the center of the image is ionized hydrogen covering the most densely populated cloud. Scientists believe the turquoise shell was created by the emission of energetic photons by young, massive stars.. However, researchers do not yet have an explanation for the turquoise needle-like structures that appear chaotically oriented in many directions in the image.

Emission nebula

The emission nebula NGC 346 is one of the youngest and most dynamic “stellar maternity hospitals” in the vicinity of the Milky Way.. It is located in the dwarf galaxy Small Magellanic Cloud, located 210,000 light years from Earth.

Astronomers are studying this region with particular interest, believing that stars are now forming in it in the same way as during the “cosmic noon” period in the history of the Universe. In that era, which came 2-3 billion years after the Big Bang, the rate of star birth in space was at its peak, but at the same time there were few heavy elements in the galaxies, formed as a result of nuclear fusion and supernova explosions.

The image covers a region 240 light years in diameter. The research team discovered over 1000 luminaries here. Most of them are young stars still in their dusty cocoons.. Bright spots and clumps of the nebula are areas with the highest concentration of protostars.

Interstellar matter

This image shows the central part of the star cluster IC 348. It is located approximately 1000 light years from Earth and consists of 400 very young stars about 2 million years old.. Scientists looked for brown dwarfs among them — intermediate objects between a star and a planet. These objects do not generate their own energy and lose heat as they age, so they are easier to detect while they are in a young state.

The thin purple-pink filament that fills the image is interstellar material reflecting light from a cluster of stars.. In the center of the frame is a pair of the most massive stars of the IC 348 cluster. Their radiation twists interstellar matter into a large loop. According to scientists, this image also contains the smallest brown dwarf ever discovered.. It floats freely in interstellar space and weighs only three to four times more than Jupiter.. Studying it should expand our understanding of how stars form.


Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. It is an ice giant composed mainly of frozen water, methane and ammonia.. The uniqueness of Uranus is that a day and a year on it last 84 Earth years. So, for 42 years, daylight continuously falls on one pole of the ice giant.. And in the next 42 years, this pole turns away from the Sun, and darkness and winter sets in.

The photo provided by JWST shows the north pole of Uranus, where it is now late spring. A large light gray oval on the blue surface of the planet is the polar cap. It appears when the pole is exposed to direct sunlight in the summer and disappears in the fall.. The image also shows some of Uranus's 27 moons and 11 of its 13 rings, made up of chunks of ice, rock and dust.

Read also: “The beauty of space: 10 of the most iconic images from the James Webb Telescope”