Adventures and exploration on earth are of course wonderful, and our bread and butter. But really, anything you can possibly do on this planet is the tiniest of baby steps compared to the real frontier: Space. The “final frontier,” some might even say. Okay, fine, have said, and probably copyrighted.

It can feel at times as though we’re right on the cusp of a serious movement to get into space in a really big way with reusable rockets taking off and landing successfully and private space tourism and renewed talk of visiting Mars and tons of glorious footage from rovers on Mars and…and…and.

Of course we’re likely a decade away, at least, from plodding around on Mars with actual human feet, and, what, centuries? from truly visiting the stars in a meaningful way.

Stephan’s Quintet – a galaxy cluster 290 million light-years distant.

But with the unveiling of images from the James Webb Telescope, we can take tours of some spectacularly distant and beautiful parts of the universe from our computers. The first images from Webb have been released from NASA today and they are astounding. Astronomers are already doing cartwheels over the clarity and precision of what they’re seeing, and the visible range of the universe has expanded greatly.

Webb orbits the sun, not the earth (Hubble orbits the earth), and rides at a point in space a million miles from us. It keeps the earth between itself and the sun to block the light from the sun as much as possible, allowing 24/7 views into deepest space (Hubble’s view is periodically blocked by shadows).

The Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula.

The plan for the infrared telescope is to observe the first galaxies formed after the Big Bang, which are racing away from us at the impossibly far fringes of the universe. But Webb can see them. Astronomers also want to better see and understand how nebulae form stars. Plus, you know, to discover previously unknown planets. To seek out new life and new civilizations, maybe. To body see where no one has seen before.

You can view all the slides released by NASA here, including some very detailed breakdowns of what, exactly, the scope is seeing.

All photos: NASA

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