Webb telescope news - anniversary image NASA
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Klaus Pontoppidan (STScI)

As part of the ongoing Webb telescope news, NASA has released an impressive image from the deepest parts of the universe to celebrate the one-year anniversary since the James Webb Space Telescope took its first images.

Released today, the latest Webb image showcases the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the nearest star-forming region to Earth. At just 390 light years away, it offers a detailed close-up view, unobstructed by any foreground stars.

“Webb’s image of Rho Ophiuchi allows us to witness a very brief period in the stellar lifecycle with new clarity. Our own Sun experienced a phase like this, long ago, and now we have the technology to see the beginning of another’s star’s story.” – Klaus Pontoppidan

Klaus Pontoppidan has been serving as the Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, even before the telescope’s launch and throughout its inaugural year of operations.

This photograph is the latest achievement in a year of spectacular successes for the Webb telescope. Collaboratively developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Webb has been a crucial instrument in the ongoing quest to understand the universe.

Over the past year, this pioneering telescope has shed light on our solar system’s mysteries, delved into the atmospheres of distant worlds, and unveiled the enigmatic structures and origins of the universe.

Webb Telescope News in Context: Annual Space Object Launches

In the context of Webb telescope news, understanding the frequency and impact of space object launches becomes crucial. It’s important to note that while such launches signify progress in the understanding of the universe, they also contribute to a growing concern: space debris.

The interactive visualisation “Annual Space Object Launches from 1957 to 2022” from Our World in Data offers insight into the numerous objects sent to space every year since 1957.

In this context, “objects” refer to various entities such as satellites, probes, landers, crewed spacecraft, and space station flight elements that have been launched into Earth’s orbit or beyond.


Source: Our World in Data


The annual number of objects launched into space was relatively stable until 2017, when the number of objects increased by 235 (456 objects in 2017 compared with 221 in 2016; +106%).

The figure stabilised again in 2018 (453 objects) and saw a small increase in 2019 (586), but subsequent years brought further notable changes.

A milestone in the history of annual space launches was marked in 2020 (1,274 objects launched; +117% compared with 2019). This coincided with the growing presence of private sector space exploration and research, with private companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and others, playing a pivotal role in driving the increased number of launches.

In a remarkable continuation of progress, 2021 built upon the momentum of the previous year by witnessing yet another substantial leap in the number of launches (1,810 objects) – one of these launches being the Webb telescope. The trend persisted, as the most recent data available for 2022 reveals a further increase in launches (2,163).

This news, although a symbol of progress, could also be a genuine threat to space exploration and humanity in general. A report revealed that Starlink satellites (owned by SpaceX) had to perform over 25,000 collision-avoidance manoeuvres in just a six-month period to avoid hitting other objects in space.



The rise in collision-avoidance manoeuvres is linked to the growing amount of space debris, which comprises human-generated objects flying around in space at extremely high speeds. This debris includes defunct satellites, fragments of rockets, and even tiny flecks of paint from spacecraft. At speeds of up to 56,520 km/h, even these minuscule particles can cause significant damage.

In 2021, NASA stated that it tracks around 27,000 pieces of this orbital debris and warned of its potential to end missions for most robotic spacecraft operating in low Earth orbit.

This growing issue of space debris aligns with a scenario known as the Kessler Syndrome. Proposed by NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, the syndrome describes a self-sustaining cascading collision of space debris in low Earth orbit. Each collision generates more debris, which increases the likelihood of further collisions, leading to a dangerous cascade effect.

In this context, the growing influence and continued progress of private space companies have the potential to shape technology investment trends as these companies play crucial roles in the future of space exploration. At the same time, they also bear a significant responsibility for ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities.

NASA Events For More Webb Telescope News

Today, Wednesday 12 July 4 p.m. Eastern Time, a special episode of NASA Science Live will air online. Two Webb experts will discuss the telescope’s impact on exploring the distant universe, characterising exoplanet atmospheres, and understanding the solar system. Viewers can submit questions on social media using the hashtag #UnfoldtheUniverse or by leaving comments during the live stream.



Furthermore, on Friday, July 14, there will be a Webb anniversary event at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. This event is open to visitors of all ages and will provide an opportunity to learn about the telescope and its study of the universe using its infrared capabilities. Talks about the Webb telescope, a Virtual Reality experience, hands-on activities for children, and educational giveaways will be featured.

Throughout the summer, Webb anniversary community events will be held nationwide in various locations such as schools, libraries, museums, and community centres in 25 states and Washington. These free public events will offer different activities, presentations, and information to highlight Webb telescope news.


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