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The First Webb Space Telescope Image is so Twisted, warped, and Weird

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The First Webb Space Telescope Image is so Twisted, warped, and Weird
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As seen in the first image NASA released from the Webb Space Telescope, some galaxies appear like long strings of taffy that have been stretched.

As a result, our view of the deep cosmos has been altered by the universe itself.

SMACS 0723 is a cluster of galaxies that has been discovered by an astronomer using the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest telescope. In addition to containing billions of stars, millions of black holes, and perhaps trillions of planets, galaxies are enormously massive objects. A bowling ball sitting on a mattress warps space as its mass is combined between these galaxies.

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There is a sense in which this warped space creates a “lens” through which we view the world. Consequently, the light that we (or the Webb Space Telescope) see from the galaxies behind this galactic cluster has been distorted by the galaxies behind it. It is a phenomenon known as “gravitational lensing.” According to the Space Telescope Science Institute, which runs the telescope, it is like the earth has a camera lens between us and the galaxies in the distance.

A century ago, Albert Einstein predicted that gravitational lensing would have an effect on the universe. As a result, many of the galaxies we can see below in Webb’s first deep look into the cosmos are greatly magnified, and others are distorted or stretched in profound ways.

At the unveiling of Webb’s first scientific images, NASA astrophysicist Jane Rigby said: “They have been magnified as Einstein predicted they would, just as Einstein predicted they would be”

NASA calls this image "Webb’s First Deep Field." It's an image of the galaxy cluster "SMACS 0723." The mass of the galaxies distorts, and magnifies, more distant galaxies in the background Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI

NASA calls this image “Webb’s First Deep Field.” It’s an image of the galaxy cluster “SMACS 0723.” The mass of the galaxies distorts, and magnifies, more distant galaxies in the background Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI

According to the image above, the cluster of white-looking, ethereal galaxies in the image is thought to be some 4.6 billion years old. During the same period when the sun and the Earth formed, the stars were also formed, said Rigby. The view behind us is distorted and magnified by these white galaxies where a magnifying lens is positioned.

A number of the more distant objects in the cosmos are among the oldest objects in the universe, including both bizarrely-distorted galaxies and the red dots. According to Harald Ebeling, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, in a statement released to the media, all the very faint, dark-red dots, as well as many of the brighter, oddly shaped objects seen in this stunning image, are extremely distant galaxies that have never before been seen by the human eye.

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