Yesterday morning, NASA released the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and the scientific world is losing its collective mind.

I’d like you to take a quick pause from your busy day, take a breath and click this link to one of the newly released images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, called Webb’s First Deep Field. And then zoom in.

That image covers a part of the night sky the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length, yet contains thousands of galaxies. Some are bright, big and beautiful. Some are distorted as their light bends around the dense cluster of galaxies in the center of the image. And some are faint red smudges that don’t look very remarkable at first. But when you look at those small misshapen galaxies, you are looking at some of the most ancient things in existence, galaxies that formed 13 billion years ago.

The James Webb Space Telescope has been surrounded by hype, but to astronomers like Silas Laycock of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, these images show that the hype was justified. In his story, he explains what the five new images from the telescope show and why they have been bringing astronomers – and me – to tears.

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Daniel Merino

Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast

This cluster of galaxies, called Stephan’s Quintet, is a composite image produced from two cameras aboard the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA/STScI

James Webb Space Telescope: An astronomer explains the stunning, newly released first images

Silas Laycock, UMass Lowell

NASA released five new images from the James Webb Space Telescope, revealing incredible details of ancient galaxies, stars and the presence of water in the atmosphere of a distant planet.

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