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NASA Releases Stunning New Image to Celebrate JWST's First Birthday

Look at the beautiful birthday girl.

By Cassidy Ward

A century from now, if things keep going the way they are, we’ll probably be quite a bit better at building spacecraft and moving through space. We’ll probably also have an environment which is beginning to bend beneath the weight of human-driven climate change. Those two things aren’t necessarily related, it’s just the way things look, and if the creators of SYFY's The Ark (streaming now on Peacock!) got their predictions correct, we’ll use our fancy spaceships to seek out a new home for ourselves.

How to Watch

Catch up on The Ark on Peacock or the SYFY app.

Before then, we’re going to need a better road map of the universe. Fortunately, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is hard at work peering into every cosmic nook and cranny it can get its beady little sensors on. In fact, today marks the one-year anniversary of the telescope entering service. Somebody buy it a tiny cake to smash its face into!

One Year of Exploration with JWST

Over the last year, the JWST has captured an incredible selection of images ranging from our own planetary neighbors to some of the earliest and furthest-flung galaxies in the universe. Like Hubble before it, JWST is providing clearer and more detailed images of familiar targets and never-before-seen objects, alike.

RELATED: NASA’s JWST Reveals 700 Galaxies from the Early Universe

“In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity’s view of the cosmos, peering into dust clouds and seeing light from faraway corners of the universe for the very first time. Every new image is a new discovery, empowering scientists around the globe to ask and answer questions they once could never dream of. Webb is an investment in American innovation but also a scientific feat made possible with NASA’s international partners that share a can-do spirit to push the boundaries of what is known to be possible. Thousands of engineers, scientists, and leaders poured their life’s passion into this mission, and their efforts will continue to improve our understanding of the origins of the universe – and our place in it,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a statement.

Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex

To celebrate a year of discovery and investigation, NASA released a gorgeous image of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. It’s the nearest star-forming region to us, at a distance of only 390 lightyears, making it one of the nearest deep sky objects JWST has photographed. It also means there’s basically nothing between us to sully the shot.

The image contains about 50 young stars, most of which are the same mass as the Sun or smaller. Dense areas of the image mark the densest parts of star-forming material, inside of which the next generation of stars is still being born. As those stars emerge from their stellar cocoon, they green the universe with two opposing energetic jets, which fire up nearby molecular hydrogen in streaks of red. Closer in, some of the stars bear the clear indication of protoplanetary disks where new worlds are just now forming.

Until we can visit other stars in person, at least we can do it in our stories. Catch the complete first season of The Ark, streaming now on Peacock!