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The first image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been released, and it's a stunning look at a cluster of galaxies from 4.6 billion years ago.

NASA has unveiled the deepest and sharpest image of deep space ever taken, as the first of the James Webb Space Telescope images was released Monday evening.

In a press briefing at the White House, President Biden and a team from NASA showed off Webb’s “First Deep Field” photo. It’s a composite image of a galaxy cluster called “SMACS 0723.”

In layman’s terms, the photo is of thousands of galaxies, and is the clearest humans have ever seen that far into space. The image shows the galaxy field 4.6 BILLION years ago. You can see the full resolution image by clicking here.

The size of the amount of space Webb shot in the photo is the equivalent of “a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.”

The first image was made up of images taken by the Webb telescope over the course of two weeks, in multiple infrared wavelengths, and composited together. NASA said the cluster in the photo actually serves as a lens of sorts, allowing galaxies behind it to be magnified.

“The combined mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying much more distant galaxies behind it. Webb’s NIRCam has brought those distant galaxies into sharp focus – they have tiny, faint structures that have never been seen before, including star clusters and diffuse features. Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the galaxies’ masses, ages, histories, and compositions, as Webb seeks the earliest galaxies in the universe.”

NASA will unveil more of Webb’s incredible color images Tuesday in a news conference at 10:30 a.m. EDT, live on its NASA TV broadcast. Learn more about how to watch.

While 4.6 billion years ago may seem like a long way back in time to see, it’s actually not the furthest back we have images of. It’s just the best. “Non-infrared missions like COBE & WMAP saw the universe closer to the Big Bang (~380,000 years after), when there was only microwave background radiation, but no stars or galaxies,” NASA said in a Tweet. “Webb sees a few 100 million years after the Big Bang.”

 

Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.