NASA Teases First Webb Space Telescope Images

In less than a week, NASA will release the first full-resolution images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, a defining moment for many at the agency. The organization took to a blog post Wednesday to tease the upcoming release, sharing a snippet of an incomplete picture that space-bound instrument captured early in its alignment process.

Captured with 72 exposures over the span of 32 hours, the orange image shows off the deepest reaches of space. "Gaze at this test image — an unexpected and deep view of the universe — captured by Webb's Fine Guidance Sensor in May," the Telescope's Twitter account wrote Wednesday.

According to Neil Rowlands, a program scientist for Webb's Fine Guidance Sensor, the images being return are better quality than researchers had hoped for.

"With the Webb telescope achieving better-than-expected image quality, early in commissioning we intentionally defocused the guiders by a small amount to help ensure they met their performance requirements," Rowlands said in the blog post. "When this image was taken, I was thrilled to clearly see all the detailed structure in these faint galaxies. Given what we now know is possible with deep broad-band guider images, perhaps such images, taken in parallel with other observations where feasible, could prove scientifically useful in the future."

The Fine Guidance Sensor is one of four science instruments built on the Webb Telescope, and the only one that will be used in virtually every Webb mission throughout its lifetime. Those operations are expected to begin in a matter of days, after those first images are ever released.


Earlier this year, NASA administrator Bill Nelson confirmed the earliest images released from the telescope will be of the deepest reaches of space.

"If you think about that, this is farther than humanity has ever moved before," Nelson said. "And we're only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do. It's going to explore objects in the solar system and atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, giving us clues as to whether potentially their atmospheres are similar to our own."