Pic of the Week: Webb’s First Deep Field

Image (Credit): JWST deep field view of the cosmos. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

This week we have another recent image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) showing a thousands of galaxies, some of which have images distorted by the gravity of other galaxies. It is quite a collection of distant worlds.

Here is the story from NASA:

Thousands of galaxies flood this near-infrared image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. High-resolution imaging from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope combined with a natural effect known as gravitational lensing made this finely detailed image possible.

First, focus on the galaxies responsible for the lensing: the bright white elliptical galaxy at the center of the image and smaller white galaxies throughout the image. Bound together by gravity in a galaxy cluster, they are bending the light from galaxies that appear in the vast distances behind them. The combined mass of the galaxies and dark matter act as a cosmic telescope, creating magnified, contorted, and sometimes mirrored images of individual galaxies.

Clear examples of mirroring are found in the prominent orange arcs to the left and right of the brightest cluster galaxy. These are lensed galaxies – each individual galaxy is shown twice in one arc. Webb’s image has fully revealed their bright cores, which are filled with stars, along with orange star clusters along their edges.

Not all galaxies in this field are mirrored – some are stretched. Others appear scattered by interactions with other galaxies, leaving trails of stars behind them.