James Webb Vs Hubble: An Astonishing Image Comparison

“James Webb Vs Hubble” -written by Varun Bhalerao.


On July 11, 2022, The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) released its first full-color image, which NASA commented as the “deepest, sharpest infrared view of the universe to date.” James Webb is the most powerful telescope ever launched into space and is said to be a promising successor to the Hubble Telescope. This blog presents a brief view of the image comparison between the two telescopes James Webb and Hubble.

SMACS 0723 :

The first image provided by NASA is a stunning view of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 in its most advanced version. The light from this galaxy cluster took so long to reach James Webb’s eye that it essentially provides a window to look into the universe at approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

Even Hubble also took the image of SMACS 0723 and it is worth noting that the image taken by Hubble required 10 days of exposure, while James Webb’s Near-Infrared camera image took only 12.5 hours to take the image of SMACS 0723. Hubble’s image on the left shows many faint stars and galaxies while James Webb’s image on the right absolutely pops with light, revealing many hidden structures. In addition, the redder galaxies are those that are farther away, with the wavelengths of their light stretched towards the red end by the expansion of the universe.

Furthermore, a cherry on the cake is the gravitational lens effect in James Webb’s image, visible as circular smearing of light in the center of the frame. The mass of the galaxy cluster is substantially warping the fabric of spacetime with its immense gravity; thus, bending and magnifying the light from other sources behind it. James Webb will be able to use this effect to peer even deeper into space, and as such, further back in time, than any other telescope so far.


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(Left: James Webb, Right: Hubble. Credit: ESA/NASA/STSCI)


Southern Ring Nebula :

The second image released by NASA is the Southern Ring, or “Eight-Burst” nebula, as shown in the image with a dying star at its center. It is approximately 2,000 lightyears away from Earth. Hubble captured a stunning image of the Southern Ring Nebula in 1998 and now, with James Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) cameras, we can see the nebula with breathtaking new clarity and can learn more about the final moments of massive stars in our Universe.

This unprecedented resolution is owed to the fact that James Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than Hubble thanks to its much larger light-collecting mirror, also the biggest difference between the two is that Hubble primarily makes observations in visible and ultraviolet wavelengths, whereas James Webb mainly sees in mid-infrared and near-infrared.


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(The James Webb's image (left) and the Hubble image (right) of the Southern Ring. Source: NASA/Twitter)

Stephan’s Quintet :

The third image released by NASA is The Stephan’s Quintet which is about 290 million light-years away from Earth. Stephan’s Quintet located in the Pegasus constellation is a group of five galaxies. It’s noteworthy for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered in 1877. James Webb’s image reveals some never-before-seen details, including bundles of young stars, active starburst regions, and huge shock waves as one of the galaxies smashes through the cluster. NASA referred to them as “dancing galaxies”, thanks to James Webb’s amusing power as now we can see them in more detail than ever before.


James Webb vs Hubble
(JWST image of Stephan's Quintet (left) and one taken by Hubble in 2009 (right). Source: NASA/Twitter)

Carina Nebula :

The last and the most stunning image released by NASA is the Carina Nebula which is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, located approximately 7,600 light-years away. It is home to millions of massive stars that are several times larger than our Sun.

The mesmerizing image shows off James Webb’s Near Infrared Camera’s capacity to peer through dust clouds and observe baby stars forming in one of the universe’s many stellar nurseries. By contrast, an image from Hubble was only able to collect a fraction of the starlight. James Webb will shed new light on the early universe and stars in their earliest evolutionary phase. In one of the conferences, The ESA said –

“The blistering, ultraviolet radiation from the young stars is sculpting the nebula’s wall by slowly eroding it away. Dramatic pillars tower above the glowing wall of gas, resisting this radiation,”

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