Today is an exciting day in the world of astrophysics, as the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope have been released nearly 20 years after construction began. JWST gives us a glimpse into the earliest times of the universe in extraordinary detail. The capability of JWST is on full display with the first deep field image released yesterday. Shown below is the first release from JWST versus a picture of the same location in the sky by Hubble:
Remarkably, most of the points of light in this photo are galaxies from a time when the universe was much younger (4.6 billion years younger to be exact). It took Hubble several weeks to produce this image, meanwhile it only took JWST 12.5 hours.
Upon close inspection, it is clear that the gravitational lensing is far more prominent in the JWST photo. Gravitational lensing is a spectacular side-effect of Einstein's General Relativity, which predicts that the path light travels will bend as it travels near a strong gravitational object (such as a star, blackhole, or galaxy). This is the result of the fabric of space-time itself bending in the presence of a massive object.
Webb is also sensitive enough to determine the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets. Needless to say, JWST will revolutionize astrophysics while producing awe-inspiring pictures along the way.
For more pictures released from JWST, visit https://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages