NASA Shows Superior Quality of Webb Telescope with Comparison Image

Webb vs Spitzer Telescope Images

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech (left), NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI (right)

As the countdown to the James Webb Space Telescope‘s first observations dwindles down, NASA is treating us to more good news. All of the telescope's mirrors have been aligned and its four imaging instruments are performing far better than expected. To prove that point, NASA has released a new image comparing the quality of a photo taken by the Webb telescope against that of a decommissioned telescope. The results are astonishing.

Webb's coldest instrument, the MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) gives a crisp, clear look at a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way called the Large Magellanic Cloud. When this image is held up against one previously taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Array Camera, the results are clear. Webb truly outdoes the competition with this detailed look at the satellite galaxy. The image is so crisp that it's even possible to see the wisps of interstellar gas in detail.

It's a stunning accomplishment given that, at the time it was in use, the Spitzer Space Telescope was using cutting-edge technology. Launched in 2003 and retired in 2020, it was the first telescope to provide high-resolution images of the near- and mid-infrared universe. Now, James Webb Space Telescope is taking over that legacy and bringing us even more information about our universe.

In the lead-up to when Webb will begin scientific observations this summer, the team will test all 17 instrument modes to ensure that everything runs smoothly with its four instruments. Once that is complete, Webb will be ready to get to work. This testing should take two months and, at the same time, the team will continue to monitor the mirror alignment and adjust as necessary.

NASA just released an image showing how the James Webb Space Telescope blows away images taken by their retired Spitzer Space Telescope.

GIF Showing Comparison of Spitzer and Webb


The comparison comes after all four of Webb's instruments were confirmed to function better than expected.

Sharpness of Webb Telescope Instruments


The image shows the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, in crisp detail.

Webb vs Spitzer Telescope Images

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech (top), NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI (bottom)

James Webb Space Telescope: Website | Twitter

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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