The Inverse Awards 2022

Best James Webb Space Telescope images of 2022: 15 of the most stunning cosmic vistas

History in the making.

NASA-GSFC, Adriana M. Gutierrez (CI Lab)

In December 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope launched into space, carrying with it the promise of a new era for astronomy.

Since then, the telescope has set its sights on ancient galaxies, dusty nebulae, and planets near and far.

ESA via Giphy

NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy Schmidt

The telescope’s first images dropped in July 2022, kicking off a steady stream of new views of the familiar and unfamiliar cosmos.

Here are 15 remarkable images from JWST’s inaugural year in space:

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

15. Portrait of the universe

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

JWST’s first released image was this deep field capture, littered with stars and galaxies that appear as mere specks.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

14. Put a ring on it

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Behold: the Southern Ring Nebula. At the center is an exploding star, and there are also several galaxies hidden in this picture.

13. Cosmic cliffs

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

This slice of sky is located at the edge of the Carina Nebula, with its scenic stars and towering clouds of dust on display.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

12. Family portrait

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Five galaxies make up the ethereal Stephan’s Quintet. Some of them are so close together, they’re actively colliding, while the one on the upper left is actually several million light-years closer to us.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

11. Birth of a star

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

A growing protostar at the center of this hourglass figure blasts out infrared light, illuminating the clouds of gas that it feeds on.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

10. Up close and personal

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

This is a snapshot of the dwarf galaxy Wolf–Lundmark–Melotte (WLM), our sharpest view of the isolated region to date.

9. Neptune in a new light

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

JWST captured Neptune’s glowing rings, which are much easier to detect at infrared wavelengths.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

8. Gymnastics in space

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The Cartwheel Galaxy (right) is the product of a galactic merger, giving it a unique shape and structure.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

7. After impact

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Pow! JWST captured the impact of NASA’s DART vehicle once it slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

6. Galactic neighbors

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

JWST teamed up with the Hubble Space Telescope to capture the galaxy pair VV 191 in a brighter light than ever before.

NASA, ESA, CSA, ASU, University of Alabama, University of Melbourne, JWST PEARLS Team

5. Hole-y moly!

ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams

JWST peered through thick dust clouds around spiral galaxy IC 5332 for an eerie, mid-infrared view of its punctured arms.

ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams

4. All tangled up

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Two galaxies, known collectively as IC 1623, are actively merging 270 million light-years away from Earth in this JWST image.

3. Jupiter’s glow up

NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy Schmidt

Electric polar aurorae, a gaping dark spot, and textured clouds are on full display in this near-infrared portrait by JWST.

NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy Schmidt

2. Ripples in space

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, NASA-JPL, Caltech

JWST spotted a pair of binary stars, called WR 140, that created these waves of cosmic dust.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, NASA-JPL, Caltech

1. An interstellar icon, revisited

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, J. DePasquale (STScI), A. Pagan (STScI), A. M. Koekemoer (STScI)

JWST put its own spin on a classic: the Pillars of Creation. This rich view combines mid- and near-infrared data.

INVERSE celebrates the best of the best in entertainment, gaming, science, and technology of 2022. Go to the INVERSE Awards hub.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI