back to article First-ever James Webb Space Telescope image revealed

On Monday, NASA released its first image from the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, providing the sharpest and deepest glimpse yet of distant galaxies from the very early universe. The telescope blasted off from Earth at the end of December, and about a month later the probe arrived at its new home about a million miles …

  1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Pint

    Wow!

    Also Wow!

    A pint or ten for all those involved.

    PS - I'm getting a flashback to the late 70's\early 80's opening titles of Doctor Who.

    1. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Wow!

      Even the official Doctor Who twitter channel is having those flashbacks!

  2. HildyJ Silver badge
    Pint

    Shock and Awe

    This image, like the Hubble Deep Field image, stuns me when I think about it and they point out how insignificant we are.

    As Douglas Adams said:

    “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is."

    My mind is boggled. I'll send the boffins a pint (but I'm keeping my towel).

    N.B. More images tomorrow.

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: Shock and Awe

      "you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but listen!"

      Honestly tho, my mind is really struggling to process this image. It's too big. Everything is too big. That's an almost imperceptible speck in the night sky and it contains more... everything... than it's even possible to imagine.

      Humans were not built to handle this sort of scale. I feel awe and despair in equal measure. If this fails to move anyone, they just didn't grasp the reality of what they're looking at.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Shock and Awe

        "Humans were not built to handle this sort of scale. I feel awe and despair in equal measure. If this fails to move anyone, they just didn't grasp the reality of what they're looking at."

        Oh, we do have the capacity. For a very, very short time. But as Dr Who said of Humans, they have an infinite capacity to forget and block anything extraordinary :-)

    2. cmdrklarg
      Joke

      Re: Shock and Awe

      Insignificant? I'll have you know that I'm the most significant person in the universe. Just ask me!

      *eats the fairy cake*

  3. jake Silver badge
    Pint

    "Light reflected from this mirror is refocused by a tiny secondary mirror, just 0.74 metres in diameter"

    0.79m (near enough 31") is hardly "tiny" ... ask anyone who has ground, polished, silvered & mounted a six or eight inch mirror. I wonder how many ElReg commentards remember the excitement of receiving the box from Edmund Scientific labeled GLASS—FRAGILE.

    A beer for the boffins ... and anyone else interested.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Pffft

      All right, smaller, then, not tiny.

      Don't forget to drop us a note to corrections@ if you spot something odd.

      C.

      1. gforce

        Re: Pffft

        In relation to the UK favourite size silliness .... the football pitch, how many decimalised football pitches does that run to.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Pffft

          I understand that some boffins (High-energy physicists) measure their targets for collisions of particles in 'picobarns', that is 10^^-12 of a barn door. So surely the sizes of the JWST mirrors should be described in terms of whole barn doors?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Pffft

            A barn is 10^-28 m2 so a picobarn is bloody small

            1. Ken Shabby

              Re: Pffft

              Not as small as a shed, that picobarn is a terashed

              "barn to shed conversion"

      2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: Pffft

        Don't forget to drop us a note to corrections@ if you spot something odd.

        I spotted Michael Gove the other day. Does that count?

  4. redpawn
    Happy

    Gravitational Lensing

    on view and beautiful in its demonstration of the curved space light travels through. A pint for all involved and hopes that movie productions catch up with these discoveries soon.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Gravitational Lensing

      A pint for all involved and hopes that movie productions catch up with these discoveries soon. ..... redpawn

      Get with the ProgramMING*, redpawn ....... movie productions create such discoveries ‽ . :-)

      * .... Mined IntelAIgent Networking Games

      1. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: Gravitational Lensing

        I don't think I waked and baked enough this morning for me to be able to comprehend this.

        Just as an amfM post should be.

  5. Mayday Silver badge
    Alien

    Here they are!

    Uncompressed and good to go. ~30MB each

    https://stsci-opo.org/STScI-01G7JJ29QMHNZKDK9JC7M4G47T.tif

    https://stsci-opo.org/STScI-01G7JJADTH90FR98AKKJFKSS0B.png

    Yes, I dragged and zoomed a lot here.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Here they are!

      Looking at all the detail, I think the Universe really needs Marie Kondo's help

    2. Zenubi

      Re: Here they are!

      Thank you

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You

    Yes you behind the quasar

    Stand still laddie!

  7. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

    Larger still

    We already knew the Universe was very big, but with JWST it has become ten times larger still!!

    Makes me wonder: there just has to be other life out there. However, we might never be able to contact or reach them if they're in another Galaxy. Also, life could've evolved millions of years ago, flourished and then extinguished.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Larger still

      IMHO, the chances of life existing outside our solar system: 100%.

      Chances of us making contact with life outside our solar system: Unknown, but probably close to zero with our current understandning of the laws of physics.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Larger still

        But as long as the chance is >0 we have to keep trying.

        1. hitmouse

          Re: Larger still

          And then have a referendum to vote ourselves out of contact with them

      2. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Larger still

        ...chances of life existing outside our solar system: 100%...

        Seeing how quickly simple life emerged on Earth, pretty much as soon as it was cool and wet enough for simple organisms such as algae and PE teachers to thrive, they did.

        The change from pond scum to multi-celled took a very long time and that step is less certain so while the galaxy is probably teeming with life, there's probably very little we could recognize as intelligent.

        Also there's stellar environments to consider, out here in the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm it's pretty quiet, closer to the core star are a lot closer together meaning planetary orbits can and will be disturbed by passing stars, this is catastrophic for most life forms so probably less than half of the galaxy can sustain planets with life long enough to develop beyond pond scum..

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Larger still

          Even at "half", that is between 50 and 200 milliard stars, in the Milky Way alone. And there are a lot of galaxies in that picture.

          I gotta agree with A Non e-mouse on this one: An almost certainty of intelligent life, and a near certainty of never being able to contact it, barring a significant shift in our understanding of physics.

          1. John D'oh!

            Re: Larger still

            I was about to say "Of course, there is intelligent life in the universe, it's us!" but then I had to stop myself when I realised...

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Paradox (was Re: Larger still)

              But surely stopping is a clear sign of intelligence?

              1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

                Re: Paradox (was Larger still)

                Self-aware ≠ intelligent. Recent political news in $WOODS_UR_NECK refers.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Larger still

            Cosmology says it's pretty damn near certain that there's not only other intelligent life in the universe, there's other intelligent life that's indistinguishable from us.

            WMAP showed that our Hubble volume is pretty damn flat – the curvature is small. So unless our Hubble volume is unusual in the universe as a whole, the universe is a lot bigger than just our Hubble volume. Probability suggests our Hubble volume is unlikely to be special. So there's reason to assume (it's untestable, assuming you want to keep causality intact) that the universe includes a great many times our Hubble volume, containing a similar arrangement of matter.

            And if we assume that physics outside our Hubble volume are consistent with what's in our Hubble volume, then that matter will similarly be grouped into star systems and galaxies and so forth.

            There are only so many stable arrangements for protons. Given a really big universe with a lot of matter and consistent physics, those arrangements are going to repeat. A lot.

            Of course, even communicating with anyone outside our solar system, even within our part of the Milky Way, is a pretty difficult proposition, given the delays (again, assuming causality is preserved, which I for one would prefer) and the various engineering challenges. So all but a vanishingly small fraction of the possible intelligent life out there will forever remain hypothetical.

      3. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Larger still

        If alien life has the physics, they might contact us. Or not, if they think we are just boring. We need to keep a look out for galactic strangers, to be on the safe side.

      4. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

        Re: Larger still

        I still remember some mathematician calculating that even with sub-light speed propulsion it would take the Human race less than a couple thousand years to populate the entire Milky Way galaxy.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Larger still

          "even with sub-light speed propulsion it would take the Human race less than a couple thousand years to populate the entire Milky Way galaxy."

          Neat trick, seeing as it takes light somewhere around 180,000 years to cross the galaxy. From Earth's position on the inner edge of the Orion Arm, the furthest reaches of our home galaxy are ~120,000 light years away ... but to get there from here we'd have to take a rather large detour around the Galactic Center (at least until the demolition and rebuilding slows down a trifle).

    2. m4r35n357

      Re: Larger still

      Hope your equipment can tolerate a little latency on the link . . .

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Larger still

      As other commenter said, on current assumptions chance of life elsewhere in universe is 100%. 'Other assumptions' are here that universe is spatially flat, not topologically strange on large scales and therefore infinite, and also that is homogeneous on large scales.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Larger still

        I don't think the universe needs to be infinite for the probability of life out there to be close to 1. Even within our own galaxy I'd suggest the chance of life is close to 1. Factoring in all the other galaxies we currently know about pushes the odds even closer to 1.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Re: Larger still

          Oh yes agree with that. But if universe is spatially infinite, then probability is not just very close to 1: it is 1.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Larger still

            Sadly it is entirely possible for an infinite system to have less than 1 probability of something that is theoretically possible. Mathematics has many examples of infinite summations that are finite. The sum of the reciprocal squares of the positive integers is finite, if the probability that each of your monkeys has a one trillionth times the reciprocal of their number squared probability of writing the works of Shakespeare, then even an infinite number of monkeys would have a tiny chance of writing them, but each would have positive probability.

            As far as we know, life on Earth is unique and very precious, it would be nice if we could treat the biosphere accordingly.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Boffin

              Re: Larger still

              Am very aware that infinite sums can be finite: am mathematician. Indeed this is one such case: divide universe into hubble volumes, chance of life in each is c, chance in n is infinite number of hubble volumes ... chance is 1, unless c is 0 which we know it is not.

              what you are missing is homogeneity (one of implications of cosmological principle). All these volumes are the same, have the same laws of physics same amount of matter. You keep throwing the dice of arrangements of that matter you will get life with nonzero probability in each one.

              yes cosmological principle is principle ie assumption. So is flatness (rather than just approximate flatness), then spatial infiniteness and blah. But given those assumptions probability is in fact 1. See comments by Michael Wojcik who goes into some detail.

              (Of course most of it will be causally disconnected from us, and none of this means we should decide Earth does not matter.)

              1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
                Alien

                Re: Larger still

                The problem is that we are using a mathematical model (probability theory) to analyse reality. Remember that the model is not reality, it is just a model, and infinities and infinitesimals are tricky. Yes, it is certainly possible that in an infinite universe divided into large volumes each with matter (galaxies, stars, dust, gas, planets etc.) we would assess each as having a non-zero probability of containing intelligent life, but there is also the chance that none of them, apart from our own, does. Statistical models are probabilities, not necessarily reality.

                I just hope that if there are aliens out there they are doing a better job of looking after each other and their habitation than we are.

                (Alien icon, obvs.)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Boffin

                  Re: Larger still

                  Yes, all of physics is mathematical model.

                  But if you can establish a finite (no need for infinitesimals or any non standard number system) lower bound for the probability of life in some volume, or equivalently a finite lower bound for the probability density over some spacelike surface, then in an infinite homogeneous universe (so assuming flatness, no weird global topology, cosmological principle, all as I said earlier) then probability of life is 1. Not 'approximately 1', 1.

                  And it is easy to establish such a finite lower bound in fact: simply compute the probability of life spontaneously arising due to quantum effects (this is related to Boltzmann brain idea). This is very small but it is finite. Real bound will presumably be far higher but we do not need it: we can just use this one.

                  I am done here now as it seems increasingly you are arguing from some weird philosophical position and I have no time for those, at all. I am scientist (well, mathematician) I do science not silly word games.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Larger still

                    "I do science not silly word games."

                    Martin Gardner would be appalled.

                    1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

                      Re: Larger still

                      You are Dr. I. J. Matrix, and I claim my £5.

        2. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: Larger still

          I would say the chance of life in our galaxy is 1,as for the chance of intelligent life... Well, as the poet said: "And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space / 'Cause it's bugger all down here on Earth"

    4. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Larger still

      "life could've evolved millions of years ago, flourished and then extinguished"

      Some of the very stars that show in the image may indeed no longer exist - we're talking billions of light years distances here. That's an interesting if not often mentioned feature of astronomy - observations of star fields are not temporally distinct.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Larger still

        It can be argued that "no longer" doesn't even make epistemological sense for things like this. We can't have any interactions with those objects faster than light, so their existence "now" relative to a frame of reference based on Earth is in a certain sense irrelevant. What we're interacting with is the light they generated that reached us; whether those objects still exist "now" has no material consequences for us.

        Of course, the lifetimes of stars and galaxies and other astronomical objects are questions worthy of research and analysis, for understanding how the universe works. But for a specific object it's the light that's here, and not the matter that's there, which matters to us.

        We can propose thought experiments like "if you could instantaneously be transported to the spot that light originated from, make an observation, and then instantaneously be transported back here...". But 1) that galaxy, if it still exists, wouldn't be in the same place "now" relative to Earth; and 2) this instantaneous back-and-forth could lead to temporal paradoxes and causality violations, so we're already in weird and dubious territory.

        (OK, it's hard to see how you could create a meaningful causality violation with just this sort of single-back-and-forth between two very distant points in space. But it points to how this sort of thought experiment is already on thin ice.)

        For long-distance observations, space and time are inseparable, which makes simultaneity a concept of questionable utility.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Larger still

          "For long-distance observations, space and time are inseparable, which makes simultaneity a concept of questionable utility."

          And then mix in a little quantum entanglement to really make your head explode.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Boffin

            Re: Larger still

            enganglement does nothing for causality.

    5. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Larger still

      ...life could've evolved millions of years ago...

      Millions yes, it happened here millions of years ago.

      But billions such as in this image, no. A few more generations of stars would be needed to get enough heavy elements to sustain life.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Larger still

        I saw somewhere that the age of that galactic cluster is 4.6 billion years. About the age of the solar system, give or take a hundred million or two.

        So there may easily be life there now. As for the epoch when that light began its journey to us there is still plenty of time from the big bang some 13 billion years back.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Larger still

          That's just the foreground lens. The stuff being lensed is more like 13bn years, less than 1bm from the beginning

    6. Def Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Larger still

      ...there just has to be other life out there...

      Some upcoming JWST missions are to study the composition of exoplanet atmospheres for possible signs of life.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Larger still - Douglas.

        The universe. Some information to help you live in it.

        One: ‘Area’. Infinite. As far as anyone can make out

        Two: ’Imports’. None. It’s impossible to import things into an infinite area, there being no outside to import things in from.

        Three: ‘Exports’. None. See ’Imports’.

        Four: ‘Rainfall’. None. Rain can not fall because in an infinite space there is no up for it to fall down from.

        Five: ‘Population’. None. It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, but that not everyone is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

        Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds.

        So, if every planet in the universe has a population of zero, then the entire population of the universe must also be zero, and any people you may actually meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

        Six: ‘Monetary Units’. None. In fact, there are three freely convertible currencies in the universe, but the Altairian Dollar has recently collapsed, the Flainian Pobble Bead is only exchangeable for other Flainian Pobble Beads, and the Triganic Pu doesn’t really count as money.

        It’s exchange rate of six Ningis to one Pu is simple, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin six-thousand, eight-hundred miles long each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Niginis are not negotiable currency because the Galactic Banks refuse to deal in fiddling small change.

        From this Basic premise it’s very simple to prove that the Galactic Banks are also the products of a deranged imagination.

        Seven. ‘Sex’. None. Well - actually, there is an awful lot of this. Largely because of the total lack of money, trade, banks, rainfall, or anything else that might keep all the nonexistent people in the universe occupied.

        However, it’s not worth embarking on a long discussion of it now, because it really is, terribly complicated. For further information See Chapters Seven, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Fourteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Nineteen, Twenty-One to Eighty-Four inclusive, and… most of the rest of the book.

    7. KBeee Silver badge

      OLD Joke

      Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have had a hard time sleuthing in London all spring, so they decide to take a nice summer break camping in Cornwall.

      In the middle of their first night Holmes wakes Watson and ask him "Watson, look up and tell me what you see, and what you think it means."

      Watson replies "I see a myriad of stars Holmes. If only one in a thousand stars has a planet, and if only one in a thousand planets has life, and if only one in a thousand of those planets has intelligent life, then there must be thousand of intelligent beings in the universe."

      Holmes says "No you fool! It means some bastard has stolen our fucking tent!"

  8. julian.smith
    Big Brother

    Still missing?

    Any sign of god?

    I know you're out there somewhere ... somewhere

    1. Winkypop Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Still missing?

      Look between the gaps

    2. Forget It
      Happy

      Re: Still missing?

      Any sign of god?

      The devil is in the details

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Still missing?

        "Any sign of god?"

        Yes! The brightest stars are all sexagrams, or hexagrams if you are an unsexy Greek. Exactly like in every naivety Christmas card above the manger.

        I'm a life long militant atheist but that photo has convinced me there is a G~d, and we need to learn their pronouns as they/he/she seems to be transitioning.

    3. nagyeger

      Re: Still missing?

      @julian.smith

      You think he's going to pick your lifetime to show up in the shot, with a microscopic sign saying 'Yes I'm here'? Which of the 7000+ languages of the world should it be written in? I expect if he did people'd call it fakery.

      I myself would think he'd do something a bit more dramatic, so that those who deny his existence have no excuse. You know, save some people and animals from a devastating flood*, parting some large body of water, the odd miracle? To paraphrase something from a story this guy born in Bethlehem once told a crowd somewhere, 'there's just no convincing some people, if they don't believe history, not even someone coming back from the grave will convince them.'

      * Local or global depending on how you want to interpret a word that can mean 'earth/land/a particular small territory'.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Still missing?

        >You think he's going to pick your lifetime to show up in the shot, with a microscopic sign saying 'Yes I'm here'?

        Well it's proof that God isn't a lawyer - or there would be a copyright symbol in the CMWB

    4. Def Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Still missing?

      ...I know you're out there somewhere...

      <morgan.freeman>But he wasn't out there, and Julian Smith never did find any signs.</morgan.freeman>

    5. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Still missing?

      Current scientific understanding hinges on about 80-90% of the universe being invisible and undetectable (for now, I can't remember if dark matter is one of the things JW hopes to understand?) Quite a large gap :)

      But the 'god of the gaps' argument is and always been a bad one. Neither theologians nor physicists like it. You don't ascribe everything you can't understand "well that's God". Physics - as us physicists well be the first to tell you - is a study of what and how and when, not why. A complete unified theory of everything wouldn't remove that.

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Frustrating...

    So much universe for me to play tourist in... so little time!

    1. Freezus
      Alien

      Re: Frustrating...

      Kills me. I just wanna hop in a blue box and see it all

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Frustrating...

        I'd prefer a Cobra Mk3, but yeah, the sentiment is the same... It pains me to know that, no matter when I'd been born or how long I might live, there will *always* be things from my history that I wish I'd been around to see, and things from my future that I wish I could be around to see.

        1. Andy 68

          Re: Frustrating...

          Well, ASP, but upvoted anyway

          1. Screepy

            Re: Frustrating...

            Asp ey? Someone's doing well ;)

            Scout or Explorer?

            Did DW2 in T7 Transporter - basically flew a brick to beagle point

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Frustrating...

        @Freezus

        I dream of a supercar.

        Gear 1: road travel.

        Gear 2: airborne.

        Gear 3: around the solar system.

        Gear 4; around the galaxy.

        Gear 5: to the limits of the universe.

        Plus reverse gears to get out of difficult situations.

  10. werdsmith Silver badge

    Very pleased to see the JWST online and working “nominally”.

    I did watch the Joe Biden live reveal yesterday an it was quite the cringe fest.

    1. LogicGate

      The compromise candidate is indeed cringeworthy, but a boring and cringeworthy is a lot better than the alternative.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It would be nice to have a better choice of alternatives.

        1. LogicGate

          Off course!

          John Stewart with Pete Buttigieg as VP?

          Imagine id Boris Johnssons nickname had been "Boring Johnsson", due to general minimalistic competence and a lack of scandals?

        2. Sixtiesplastictrektableware Bronze badge

          Better alternatives? Perfection is the enemy of progress.

          Could maybe you could think of who's gonna follow the guy up?

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        The better alternative is to keep the politicians away from this stuff. Bill Clinton was in office when JWST was started.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          "The better alternative is to keep the politicians away from this stuff"

          I'm increasingly of the opinion that it would be best to keep politicians away from a breathable atmosphere for the sake of the rest of us.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: "The better alternative is to keep the politicians away from this stuff"

            Simple rule:

            Anyone who wants to be a politician should never be allowed to.

            I'd prefer picking them from the general public for a 6 month stint, maybe 12 months. Long enough to do useful stuff, but not long enough to become a corrupt power adict. Could do it a bit like jury duty - make it a civic responsibility. But allow people to refuse, and absolutely don't allow them to be picked again for at least 2 years.

            No campaigning, no fund raising, just state your political alligience. No opportunity for campaign corruption, and reduced lobbying and influencing ability because the candidates are unknown until after selection.

            Selections need to pass a basic intelligence test plus usual background checks. While they are performing this civic duty, pay them the wage a current politician would receive. No outside work permitted; you're there to do one job so just do it without external distractions.

            Like jury duty, employers must keep the position open of any employee selected.

            Sure, it's not perfect. But the current system is so far from perfect, almost anything is an improvement.

            .

            1. swm Silver badge

              Re: "The better alternative is to keep the politicians away from this stuff"

              See "The Solar Lottery" by Phillip K. Dick where everyone,at birth, was issued a 'power card' and a random drawing was made every so often to see who the next ruler was.

          2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

            Re: "The better alternative is to keep the politicians away from this stuff"

            @DJV

            If we are not ruled by politicians, the alternatives may be a lot worse. People in England were glad when the Cromwell era ended.

        2. Mad Ludwig

          Give the politicians a little credit on this one ... this rather went over time and budget, they could have pulled the plug, and didn't.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correction or have I misunderstood...?

    "... the L2, keeping it out of our planet's shadow..."

    Shouldn't L2 perpetually be in Earth's shadow...?

    1. Peter Mount

      Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

      It's in a halo orbit around L2 so the Sun is never actually behind the Earth from JWST's point of view.

    2. KarMann
      Boffin

      Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

      At the L2 point, yes. But, 'the JWST orbits the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point,' going around it rather than sitting right there, a distance of 250,000–832,000 km away from it (I must admit, I had to look that detail up on Wikipedia, and would have guessed it was rather closer). I did see a nice animation of that orbit recently; I'll see if I can find that and add it as a follow-up.

      1. KarMann
        Go

        Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

        Well, this one, also from Wikipedia, looks just fine to get the point across.

        1. theOtherJT
          Pint

          Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

          God orbital mechanics make for awesome animations. I love that. Have a....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

      At that distance the Earth does not eclipse the Sun completely so some of the Sun is always visible. However JWST orbits around L2 so Sun is likely never shaded for it.

      Reason for L2 in fact is that Earth and Sun are both in approx same direction so you can put heat shield up and protect against heat from both the large objects at the same time (also Moon I expect). Anywhere else you either need to be too far from Earth which lowers bandwidth or you need two shields. So L2 is brilliant for this.

      1. Dizzy Dwarf

        Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

        Also - not being in Earth's shadow rather helps the solar panels.

    4. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge

      Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

      Smarter Every Day did a good video on it, with an interview with John Mather, Senior Project Boffin for the James Webb telescope. One of the things he explains is why they chose L2, in laymans terms too. Other things explained also. Worth a watch.

      https://youtu.be/4P8fKd0IVOs

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correction or have I misunderstood...?

        OP here.

        Big thanks for the clarification about Earth's shadow, links to video's etc....!

  12. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The number of Einstein rings is impressive.

    Adding to this that what we see here is only a small part of what is really here, if the dark matter theory is right!

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      if the dark matter theory is right

      If

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Re: if the dark matter theory is right

        That is least convincing article I have ever read. Well no it is not, but it is very unconvincing. In particular notice the littly tiny caption on their second table:

        Similar to Figure 1, but for Mond with hypothetical particles that only interact via gravity called sterile neutrinos. Notice the lack of clear falsifications.

        Wait, wait: MOND with hypothetical particles that only interact via gravity called sterile neutrinos. Right yes, I see, so you patch up MOND to make it work with particles which only interact gravitationally, but which we cannot otherwise detect. Yes, yes, we could perhaps give those particles a name, could we not? Something like, I don't know, 'dark stuff'? 'invisible matter'? 'invisible stuff'? Hmm, hmm, yes.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: if the dark matter theory is right

        Mond’s main postulate is that when gravity becomes very weak, as occurs at the edge of galaxies, it starts behaving differently from Newtonian physics.

        I'm no physicist, but I know that Einstein already took us beyond Newtonian physics.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Re: if the dark matter theory is right

          I'm no physicist, but I know that Einstein already took us beyond Newtonian physics.

          However in these regimes GR and Newton gravity should agree extremely closely, so if MOND is true (I think it is not) GR is also falsified.

  13. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
    Pint

    Goody!

    I look forward to many more amazing images and data (more important really I suppose).

    I hope they start planning a replacement soon though given how long it took to get this one going. That or they devise a way of refuelling it.

    As others many of these for the team(s) that got it to this stage. --->

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Goody!

      The replacement is already being worked on, it's the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope scheduled to launch no later than May 2027. So probably around 2030.

      1. Spazturtle

        Re: Goody!

        Roman is not a replacement for JWST, it is a converted KH-11 spy sat (one of the two spares that NRO gave to NASA) so it will be similar in performance to Hubble but with a much shorter focal length, so it won't be able to see anywhere near as far as Hubble but it will capture a much larger field of view.

  14. theOtherJT

    Can someone smarter than me...

    ...explain what the apparent distortion is? There are a lot of galaxies that look to be being stretched or bent - is that an artifact of the camera, or are they actually that shape due to their interactions with other galaxies?

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Headmaster

      Re: Can someone smarter than me...

      Ask your favourite search engine about "Gravitational Lensing"

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Re: Can someone smarter than me...

        Do not be silly: do you realize just how far the telescope would need to move to make an effect like that even detectable?

        1. theOtherJT

          Re: Can someone smarter than me...

          I would have assumed those effects cancel out?

          Sure, we're looking at a field hundreds of millions of light years across, but we're also trying to focus on something billions of light years away - bits of it are billions of light years closer to us than other bits. There'd be some really complex parallax effects to cancel out if there were any movement at this end at all.

          On the face of it it would make sense for some bits to be experiencing motion blur and other bits not.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Boffin

            Re: Can someone smarter than me...

            OK. If JWST operates at 1000nm (near IR, this image is near IR) and has mirror 6.5m its angular resolution limit is about 1.8E-7 radian. So we can ask: how far would it have to move for the parallax between two objects it is looking at, one of which is 4.6E9ly and the other is about 13E9ly away to change by this amount? Is quite easy to calculate this: l = 1.8E-7(1/d1 - 1/d2)^-1 where d1, d2 are the two distances.

            Answer is ... about 1300ly. or about 10 million times orbital radius of Earth, or about 330 times distance to nearest star. But a bit less than 5% of the way to centre of our galaxy, so not that far, really.

            So parallax is not a problem here.

            Also optically it is all 'at infinity': for the same reason you do not need to refocus your camera when taking a picture of something on km away and something two km away you do not need to refocus a telescope when taking a picture of something 4.6 billion ly away and something 13 billion ly away.

      2. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge

        Re: Can someone smarter than me...

        >there's quite some movement on the JWST part from the beginning to the end of that that can only partially compensated

        If there was an issue with JWST 'moving' then the whole picture would be affected by motion blur, not just the garvitationally lensed galaxies.

        I guess if you really want to know how stable the telescope is, you could always RTFM

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Can someone smarter than me...

      This is gravitational lensing. The light from these distant galaxies has passed large massive objects (galaxies in the foreground cluster) and has thus 'changed direction' (really: it has travelled in a 'straight line' (geodesic) through spacetime which is curved by these massive objects), which gives rise to this distorted appearance.

    4. KBeee Silver badge

      Re: Can someone smarter than me...

      Someone must have moved while they were taking the photo

  15. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Is telescope technology still stuck with being unable to eliminate those six-fold glare thingies?

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Headmaster

      Everything in the pic with one of those is a star inside our galaxy.

      Everything in the pic without one is an entire other galaxy!

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      The diffraction spikes ('those six-fold glare thingies') in the image are caused by the fact that the main mirror comprises 18 hexagonal shaped smaller mirrors.

      The size of the fairing on a rocket that would be needed to launch a mirror with the surface area of a tennis court into space in one piece would be enormous and the aerodynamics of supersonic flight in the Earth's lower atmosphere quite tricky, I imagine.

      So yes, currently space telescope technology is still stuck with diffraction spikes due to the limitations of rocket science.

      Sorry.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      No, and it will not do so. The spikes come from three things: the overall shape of the mirror, the edges of the mirror segments and the struts which hold the secondary mirror.

      The first two you cannot do without (the design of the struts is chosen so that their spikes overlap with those from the mirror segments).

      The last one you cannot do without if you wish to have a mirror which contains individually adjustable segments, or which can be folded up for launch. You could by building really enormous spacecraft deal with the second, but you still need the first for very large mirrors.

      Note that the spikes are extremely dim compared to the image: the reason they appear so bright in this image is that there are foreground stars which are extremely bright compared to the objects of interest in the image which are therefore grossly overexposed in this very long exposure.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Thanks both of you, a useful explanation.

        I take it then, that you could rotate the telescope and interpolate between the imaged positions to eliminate them.

        1. Spazturtle

          They only show up on the local starts that are too bright for JWST cameras, and you can use other telescopes can capture images of local stars. If JWST was studying a local star it would be with it's two spectrographs and with those it can close shutters to block some of the light out if needed.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Yes you could do that I think, at the cost of halving the useful telescope time.

          However it is important that those spikes are very very dim: if you are looking at some object then in order to see those spikes show up at all the object would be vastly over exposed. In the image for this article every object has these spikes around it, but you can only see the ones from the vastly overexposed foreground stars.

          Indeed is possible to see from this image how dim these spikes really are: if you start from the very spiky star just to left and up from centre of image, now look at vertical spike from it. A little way up it crosses a red galaxy, which clearly brighter than the spike at that point. That galaxy is red, so it is presumably a member of the background field not the closer-to-us galaxy cluster. Perhaps it is 10bn ly away or more I do not know. But it appears comfortably brighter than the spike.

          If JWST was to take a useful image of the foreground star which is making the spikes then they would not even be visible.

  16. WhereAmI?

    There are very few modern things that fill me with a real sense of awe and wonder, but that picture just succeeded admirably. I tried counting the gravitational lens distortions and then tried assigning different galaxies to the same object. Failed. Too many and my knowledge of astrophysics is too poor.

    Mentally absolutely dancing with excitement for the next releases.

  17. DJO Silver badge

    Things can only get better

    Try to recall the first pictures from Hubble after the mirror was fixed and the images Hubble took a year or so later, the difference in detail was astonishing.

    We can expect the same with JWST, this picture is a pale teaser of what you can expect over the next few years.

    Also they'll get rid of the starburst effect, it's caused by the arms supporting the secondary mirror.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An honest, possibly dumb question

    Entering AC mode ...

    Ok, so that's a lot of money. For that amount of money, we're (they're) getting some incredible pictures, the kudos for having built an amazing camera, and probably more funding.

    But here back at the host planet, things are going TITSUP. Could that money not be better spent on finding real solutions for then increasingly sticky situation that we find ourselves in?

    1. Doctor Tarr

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      Not really. You could do some short term good i suppose, but would the money be spent on that or weapons instead.

      In a world with trillion dollar companies this is a drop in the ocean (or a grain of sand on a finger).

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

        And you'd have a load of bored astronomical engineers with no interest in, say, agricultural engineering, who would be crappy agricultural engineers if you forced them to do it. Human skills and enthusiasm are not fungible, "lump of labour" does not scale.

    2. Def Silver badge

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      Slightly less than $10 billion for a ~20 year mission is incredibly cheap for what it's going to give us.

      And also a drop in the ocean compared to the annual GDP of the world as a whole at $93,863 billion (2021).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      Apparently not, since the budget is a fraction of a percent of the money already available for doing so.

      Conversely, a 1% improvement in the wastefulness of capital expenditure would have many times more effect.

    4. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      AC: "Could that money not be better spent on finding real solutions for then increasingly sticky situation that we find ourselves in?"

      Actually a good question. Yes, it could have been used for famine relief, medical treatments or research, housing, clean water and education opportunities for the poor, any number of good causes, but, and it is big 'but', humanity wastes so much money on fripperies already we'd be better off clamping down on tax havens.

      For example, just take a look at the 'super-yachts' owned by billionaires the world over. How much time do they actually spend on them? Yet each one costs over US£100 million. Even 'poor millionaires; here in the UK use tax havens to keep as much of 'their money' out of 'the taxman's' grasp. Look at how HSBC enabled Russian Oligarchs' laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars (possibly many billions of dollars) of wealth taken out of Russia, and used to buy houses in London and elsewhere. people buy multiple Rolls Royce motor cars, private jets (Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 racing driver spent £16 million oh his, but avoided lots of VAT by registering it in the Isle of Man).

      The then UK Prime Minister actually singled out the comedian Jimmy Carr for using a tax dodge to acoid paying tax on his earnings, when subsequently it was revealed that Cameron had inherited £2 million from his father tax free as it was in a tax haven, he was adamant that it was all perfectly reasonable and legit.

      Look at the money the USA poured into Afghanistan, only for much of it to be siphoned off by corrupt officials so that when the USA pulled out the Taliban took over in a matter of days.

      If you want money spent on genuinely good causes, be prepared for real fight against corruption, and guard your back - remember Magnitsky. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Magnitsky

      We all need some beauty and awe in our lives.

      1. LogicGate

        Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

        One should also not ignore the potential benefits of expanding human knowledge.

        It is impossible to say today whether an astronomical observation will not provide the capstone of knowledge needed to solve or avoid future humanitarian problems here on earth.

    5. StevenP

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      At a cost of 10 billion, that works out at less than 1.5 dollars per person on the planet. How far will that go in solving the worlds problems ? Far greater sums are already being invested in global issues.

      Instead of suggesting we stop peaceful scientific research, ask yourself how much money the world is wasting every year on arms and war. Now cutting that out could make a real difference.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

        >Instead of suggesting we stop peaceful scientific research, ask yourself how much money the world is wasting every year on arms and war. Now cutting that out could make a real difference.

        Don't worry, a good chunk of the hardware and development cost went to defence companies

    6. DJO Silver badge

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      ...Could that money not be better spent on finding real solutions for then increasingly sticky situation...

      When making the mirrors they needed an incredibly accurate measuring system which unfortunately didn't exist so they had to design some new tools and techniques.

      Those are now being used to make laser eye surgery more accurate and safer.

      That alone may or may not justify the $10b but there are often serendipitous advances made with cutting edge engineering projects.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Alien

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      It was about $10 billion. This was too much and much more than it should have been.

      During 2020-2021 the UK government wrote off (which means 'threw away' I think) £8.7 billion on PPE they could not use.

      OK picking UK government as comparison is unfair as they are both very dim and very corrupt, but $10 billion is not so much.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An honest, possibly dumb question

      On one hand, I agree: how many more teachers could be hired, healthcare given to poor people, houses built for the homeless, and so on with the money spent on JWST.

      On the other hand, as many commentards have pointed out, much MUCH more money is already being piffled away on crap with close to zero value other than lining a scant handful of privileged pockets.

      So I'm left with yes, it's a bit of money, but at least for this investment we are increasing knowledge (of the universe, from custom-building parts of the system), inspiring more youths to study the sciences to maybe help solve some of the world's problems, and, as commented above, giving us a bit more awe and beauty. F-35s don't do that.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing there.

    There's a guy down by the beach does loads of these in about 5 minutes with spray cans on old tiles.

  20. Lis

    From the article

    “It is the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date”

    Musk “challenge accepted”

    Ishy

  21. JDX Gold badge

    So how much of the night sky is that?

    A grain of sand at arm's length... what sort of arc or whatever is that? Put another way, how many photos would JW need to take to get a complete photo of space? Is it easy to tell where to look or could the the most boring spot actually contain some incredible discovery when peered at very carefully?

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: So how much of the night sky is that?

      I don't think there's such a thing as a boring spot. The night sky at these distances is pretty uniform all over. I guess you could argue there's a least-interesting spot, but calling it boring would be a stretch.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: So how much of the night sky is that?

        I would guess that the least visually interesting spot would be the dipole repeller, but that would, perhaps, be a very interesting spot to study.

  22. Miss Config
    Thumb Up

    JWST II ( ?! )

    The vital question right now is exactly how far advanced we are in designing the successor to JWST ?

    Strictly speaking, the technology it is using is now well out of date.

    Obviously it will have to be approved formally by the collective intelligence here at The Reg.

  23. Dizzy Dwarf

    BBC has ...

    "Light from galaxies that has taken many billions of light-years to reach us"

    Next they'll be making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.

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