On December 25, 2021, the James Webb Telescope was launched into space. The telescope was a major step forward in astronomy, giving us the ability to see objects in deep space with more detail than ever before. It combined the high-resolution technology of the Hubble Space Telescope with the ability to detect mid to infrared light waves found in the Spitzer Space Telescope. The telescope is sensitive enough to detect light from billions of light years away, enabling us to see the first stars and galaxies ever formed. It was launched from Kourou, French Guinea, then arrived to orbit the sun in January of 2022.

Due to its proximity to Earth, scientists have spent a lot of time using Webb to observe Mars. However, the telescope must be used differently because it was designed to detect light from much further away. Astronomers use very short exposure times to capture images of Mars because the telescope’s instruments are incredibly sensitive. They go through all of this effort because the telescope’s high resolution is perfect for studying changes in the day and seasons on the Red Planet. It has been used to study weather patterns, dust storms, and many other natural phenomena since taking its first photos of Mars on September 5, 2022.

Another recent observation was the discovery of a possible source of Earth’s water. Recently, a comet named Comet 238P/Read was discovered in the main asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars that was surrounded by water. A comet is a small, icy object in a solar system that releases gas when its orbit draws it close to the sun. Before Webb, objects resembling comets had been spotted in this belt, but scientists could not be sure until spectral data from the telescope confirmed that they were indeed comets. This discovery boosts a major theory that the first water on Earth was delivered by comets. However, this comet is interestingly missing carbon dioxide. Usually, about 10% of the gas that is vaporized off of comets is carbon dioxide. Scientists attribute this lack to either the comet’s age or the possibility it was formed in an area in our solar system missing carbon dioxide.

Since its launch in 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has provided us with new and exciting discoveries, both in our solar system and the first galaxies ever formed. The high-resolution and infrared technology it contains allows astronomers to detect and observe so many previously unheard-of things. It has captured beautiful images of many corners of space, building on previous telescopes to stretch the boundaries of what we know.