NASA revealed the James Webb Space Telescope’s first photos yesterday, and the world is still under a great impression. The telescope was built on Hubble’s legacy and some objects shown in the first images had already been captured by Hubble. So, naturally, we want to compare them and see exactly how the two telescopes differ in power.
Spoiler alert: they differ a lot. We have all been amazed by Hubble’s images for over thirty years now, but Webb is Hubble on steroids in terms of image quality. So, let’s see how the photos from these two powerful telescopes compare.
Without a doubt, Hubble’s photos are awe-inspiring and many of them led to groundbreaking discoveries. Some of them have also become iconic. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there’s no person who hasn’t heard about “Pillars of Creation” or “Hubble Deep Field.”
However, the world is changing fast, and technology is advancing even faster, and it shows in James Webb Telescope and its capabilities. I mean, even its test photo was groundbreaking. Not only Webb’s photos are far more detailed than Hubble’s, but it also has another advantage: speed. It can collect the same amount of data dozens of times faster than Hubble, as astronomers pointed out in a live stream yesterday.
As I said, some objects from the first Webb phots had also been previously captured by Hubble. This is what creates a perfect scenario for comparing the capabilities, details, and sharpness of both telescopes. So, let’s take a look at those photos and compare them. I hope you’re excited!
Webb’s First Deep Field
This is the first Webb’s photo that was revealed to the public, a day before the rest of the batch. It shows galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. In this image are thousands of galaxies, along with the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared.
Now for comparison, here’s Hubble’s take on the same subject:
Planetary nebula NGC 3132
Two cameras aboard Webb captured the latest image of this planetary nebula, cataloged as NGC 3132, and known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula. It is approximately 2,500 light-years away from us.
Here is the same subject shot by Hubble in 1998:
Stephan’s Quintet is a visual grouping of five galaxies. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.
And now for Hubble’s version from 2009:
I have saved the best for last. At least this is my favorite comparison and my favorite Webb image so far. It shows the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth:
For a better comparison, here is a cropped version of a detail that was also captured by Hubble:
And here is Hubble’s version:
[via ABC News]