The southern ring nebula as photographed by the JWST (Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)
The southern ring nebula as photographed by the JWST (Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

Five centuries ago, Copernicus concluded that the earth rotates around the sun. Five decades ago, men first walked on the moon. Ten years ago, Voyager 1 entered interstellar space, becoming the first spacecraft to depart our solar system.

To this catalogue of scientific leaps we can now add the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). At the White House last Monday, President Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and NASA administrator Bill Nelson unveiled JWST’s first image to a waiting world.

The full-colour print captures thousands of galaxies in a single frame. Not stars. Galaxies. The main cluster is 4.6 billion light years away, with many more distant than that. Humans have never seen anything like it.