First images released from Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope 'deepest' image of cosmos in history

The $10 billion telescope is the successor of the iconic Hubble, as Science Editor Deborah Cohen reports

Newly released images from Nasa's $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope have revealed the "deepest" and most detailed pictures of the cosmos the world has ever seen.

The first image was revealed by US President Joe Biden on Monday evening during an event at the White House, before more galactic beauty shots were released on Tuesday.

Nasa said the world's most powerful space telescope was able to analyse the atmosphere of a planet more than 1,000 light-years away.

It revealed "the unambiguous signature of water, indications of haze, and evidence for clouds that were thought not to exist based on prior observations".

The new set of images also include a view of a giant gaseous planet outside our solar system and an update of a classic image of five tightly clustered galaxies that dance around each other.

Two images of a nebula shows a dying star cloaked by dust and layers of light.

The first picture released on Monday, Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, showcases a galaxy cluster called SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.

It is the farthest humanity has ever seen in both time and distance, closer to the dawn of time and the edge of the universe.

Part of the image is light from not too long after the Big Bang, which was 13.8 billion years ago.

President Biden marvelled at the image he said showed “the oldest documented light in the history of the universe from over 13 billion - let me say that again - 13 billion years ago. It’s hard to fathom.”

President Joe Biden marvelled at the first image released from the world's most powerful telescope. Credit: AP

Though impressive, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said the first picture represented “just a tiny sliver of the vast universe”.

“Webb’s First Deep Field is not only the first full-colour image from the James Webb Space Telescope, it’s the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant Universe, so far," he said.

“This image covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.”

Webb is considered the successor to the highly successful, but ageing Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble has stared as far back as 13.4 billion years. It found the light wave signature of an extremely bright galaxy in 2016. 

Webb (right) is considered the successor to the highly successful, but aging Hubble Space Telescope (pictured left). Credit: AP/NASA

Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the galaxies’ masses, ages, histories and compositions as Webb seeks to view the earliest galaxies in the Universe.

The telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on Christmas Day last year on its mission to unlock the secrets of the universe.

The first image was taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and is a composite made from images at different wavelengths.

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The combined mass of the galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, which magnifies the distant galaxies behind it.

Webb’s NIRCam has brought those distant galaxies into focus, revealing tiny, faint structures that have never been seen before.

Nasa and its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency, will release the entire series of Webb’s first full-colour images on Tuesday during a live Nasa TV broadcast.

ESA director general Josef Aschbacher said: “What an incredible honour for ESA and its international partners to reveal Webb’s first image from the White House.