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We Are Nothing But Space Dust

The brand new James Webb Space Telescope touched hearts around the world. News Section Editor, Olivia Chan, takes you through why we care.

In an explosion over social media, the brandnew James Webb Space Telescope made clear revelations of our cosmos thousands of light years away, redefining the edges of what we know “out there”. Specifically, beautiful snapshots of the Carina Nebula circulated on Twitter after NASA released a Tweet comparing the Hubble and James Webb telescopes.

The galactic discoveries included new nebulas, galaxies, supernovas, and more, which were previously unseen by the Hubble telescope, which is an aging visible light telescope of over 30 years old. [1] The James Webb telescope was launched on Christmas last year and contributes 30 more years worth of technological advances to view space dust in 4K.

About The James Webb Telescope

The telescope was a joint effort between US, European, and Canadian space agencies, led by NASA. The $10 billion ambition sought to see the first stars and galaxies formed in the 13.8-billionyear-old cosmos.

The main function of the Webb telescope is to look deeply into small patches of the sky, as shown by the first deep-field image released on 12 July 2022. Deep field observations are longlasting observations of a specific patch of the sky with a goal to detect faint objects.

Comparison of Webb data with Hubble data of images of the same area through software shows differences, or “transients”, in objects that change in brightness or have appeared. Thus, in relation to another supernova that was first detected in 2013, the Webb telescope has provided useful insights on the aftermath environment.

The Webb, unlike the Hubble, can detect supernovae in the oldest, most distant galaxies in the universe. This is useful for astronomers’ understanding of the universe and its expanding characteristic which increases at a faster rate over time. Furthermore, there is more insight on objects that were known of but lacked data on how and when they were formed. They can provide more information on the lives and deaths of the oldest stars.

How the James Webb Telescope Works

The telescope detects primarily infrared wavelengths, which are longer than visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum, and are, as such, invisible to the naked eye.

Accordingly, over space and time, visible light wavelengths initially projected by distant stars and galaxies become elongated into longer wavelengths such as infrared waves.[3] One of the changes this brings about is higher transportability of the wavelength, especially in and out of cosmic clouds without particle obstruction. Subsequently, more infrared wavelengths can reach the realms of the James Webb telescope to be detected.

In analysis, Scientists figure out the age of light by comparing how close the peaks are in a wavelength.[4] The criteria suggests that older wavelengths tend to be elongated, with peaks being further apart, due to the continual expansion of the universe. Scientists must then determine the chemical makeup of the light to confirm the age of the light.

This will occur through a full spectroscopic examination to confirm the distances claimed.[5] This occurs by slicing up galactic light to show its spectra. This allows us to see how the light, which was originally visible light, has been stretched into infrared light over time and space to provide an indication of the quanta of light years away the light was projected from. The spectroscopy examination allows insight into the chemical composition of the objects observed through thorough analysis and comparisons with existing data. Subsequently, it can be confirmed whether the theorised components of early stars, being only hydrogen, helium, and a small amount of lithium, are on the right track.

New Discoveries

Current discoveries have expanded the quantity of known galaxies by over ten-fold.[6] Specifically, the insight into very old galaxies have grasped some of their basic characteristics, one namely being many times smaller than newer galaxies. A drastic, however unconfirmed, discovery was unveiled by Scottish astronomers from the University of Edinburgh. They identified a new galaxy, CEERS-93316, which is believed to be the most distant galaxy observed, being around 35 billion light-years away, thus being a major leap forward in the astronomical field. [7]

Furthermore, the telescope discovered a new supernova in a galaxy the Hubble telescope had previously observed. The galaxy, with a fittingly lengthy name, SDSS.J141930.11+5251593, housed the bright object which was detected twice, five days apart, and slightly dimmer on the second occasion.[8] Its fading characteristic correlated with prior data of supernovas. Furthermore, its data suggests that the galaxy was around 3-4 billion light years away.[9] This means that the star’s explosion occurred 3-4 billion years ago. 3-4 billion years later, the death of a dying star was finally recorded…

[1] Kaufman, Mark. “NASA GIF Shows Extraordinary Power Of The Webb Telescope.” Mashable, 26 Jul. 2022, https://mashable. com/article/nasa-james-webb-space-telescope-images-carina-nebula.

[2] Amos, Jonathan. “Scottish Astronomers Push James Webb Deeper Back In Time.” BBC News, 26 Jul. 2022, com/news/science-environment-62311562.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sullivan, Will. “The James Web Telescope Might Have Spotted The Most Distant Galaxy Ever Seen.” Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Jul. 2022,

[5] (n 2)

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] (n 4)

[9] Smith, Kiona. “The James Webb Telescope May Have Just Found Its First Supernova.” Inverse, 28 Jul. 2022, https://www.


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