By Kimberly Pienkawa 1:00 pm PST

With the natural human desire to understand the vast and mysterious cosmos, NASA has sent out a new and updated successor in its mission – the James Webb Space telescope.

The Webb Telescope was launched from French Giana, South America in December 2021 to its lookout point 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth. This powerful technology can capture an image of what the universe looked like 13.7 billion years ago. Beyond its peering into unfamiliar glimpses of the past, it also analyzes close cosmic shapes with fine and meticulous detail, tuning into both the past and present with unprecedented eyes.

So, what has the James Webb Space telescope seen so far?

NASA released a new collection of images on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. These are the first images sent since the Webb’s launch in December, shared by NASA to illustrate the impressive Webb capacities. They expose the absolutely haunting and delicate beauty of nebulae and star formations. Excluding one image, the shots all return to images of the universe already witnessed by other telescopes – but with more detailed highlighting how the Webb telescope unveils hidden dimensions of known regions.

The Southern Ring Nebula – a white dwarf star – in near-infrared light (left) and mid-infrared light (right). A white dwarf star is defined as a star that has lost all its fuel. After a low or medium mass star has swollen into a red giant, the outer layers shed into a ring. The left-behind core is a white dwarf, where there is no hydrogen fusion (the process that brings primary energy to stars).

A previously unknown area of star birth within this region of the Carina Nebula. The Webb telescope used the Near-Infrared Camera and Mid-Infrared Instrument to show the eerie and unforgettable star beginnings, the shaping of dust and gas.

This is an image of Stephen’s Quintet, a grouping of five distant galaxies – and the most studied compact galaxy group – and how this group looked 290 million years ago. Stephen’s Quintet is a familiar site, first acknowledged in the Pegasus constellation. The new image allows viewers to better pinpoint the complexity of the gas interaction between galaxies and the star formation within them.

How does the Webb telescope manage its revolutionary sight? Its location 1 million miles away from earth places it in a prime spot to hunt further and deeper into the clusters of galaxies beyond our own. The telescope turns to the infrared light spectrum, which refers to light invisible to the naked eye, so that it can cut through cosmic dust. Upon the powerful capacities of the Webb telescope, European Space Agency Director General Josef Aschbacher commented, “We’ve really changed the understanding of our universe.”

The expectations for the telescope surround the developed technology – a deployable sunshield, folding segmented mirror – and its promising answers about what, if anything, out there is hospitable. The largest and most powerful mirror currently in the universe is generating buzz simply because it stands at the precipice of breakthroughs and investigations of star formations, galaxy mapping and the makeup of the solar systems. The Webb telescope, initially planned for a 10-year journey, now offers even longer potential, as it holds more fuel onboard than predicted. The most current images released give astronomers a taste of all of the informative data that is in store in the Webb Telescope’s long journey ahead, where citizens can gaze in awe at the images being presented with startling precision and depth.