The first mini-galaxies formed when the universe was just a few hundred million years old. Over time, these small galaxies interacted and merged to build up ever larger galaxies, including big spirals like our own Milky Way. Credit:NCSA/NASA/B. O'Shea (MSU) and M. Norman (UC San Diego)
Galaxies congregate in clusters and superclusters, and at larger scales superclusters seem to blend into chains and filaments that span vast distances. This so-called cosmic web seems to be the foundation on which the universe is built. Webb will explore how stars, young galaxies and dark matter worked to create large-scale cosmic structure. Credit: NASA/GSFC
Beginning when the universe is about 20 million years old and continuing to the present day, this visualization provides a glimpse of how the cosmic web may have developed. Credit:NCSA/NASA/R. Cen and J. Ostriker, (Princeton Univ.)
Stars and planets form in the dark, inside vast, cold clouds of gas and dust. The James Webb Space Telescope's large mirror and infrared sensitivity will let astronomers peer inside dusty knots where the youngest stars and planets are forming. Credit: NASA/GSFC
Deep within the cold, turbulent cocoon of a molecular cloud teem numerous stars in the earliest phases of formation. One of these protostars hosts a dusty disk where brown dwarfs or planets may one day form. Credit:NCSA/NASA/A. Kritsuk and M. Norman (UC San Diego) and A. Boley (Univ. of Florida)
We now know of hundreds of planets outside of the solar system, ranging from giant planets with masses much greater than Jupiter's to worlds only a few times more massive Earth. But where do the planets we know best fit into this menagerie of new worlds? Are there planets like Earth elsewhere in the galaxy? Webb will help astronomers answer these questions. Credit: NASA/GSFC
The protoplanetary disk around a young, isolated star evolves over 16,000 years. Bright, dense spiral arms of gas and dust gradually develop and then collapse into denser clumps that could form planets.NCSA/NASA/A. Boley (Univ. of Florida)
Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The prime contractor is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.