RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — New pictures of galaxies far, far, away have captivated the entire planet. NASA is giving us a look through the lens of the new James Webb Space Telescope. The images are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. 

Billions and billions of light years away, the James Webb Space Telescope is giving us a look at our ancient past. Images newly released this week show clusters of entire galaxies as they appeared billions of years ago.   

NASA astrophysicist, Dr. Amber Straughn, says these pictures are just a peek of what this new telescope is capable of. 

“We are able to see things about the universe that I think are going to completely change the way that we understand how the universe works,” said Dr. Straughn. 

NASA’S brand-new telescope launched in December, and this week its revealing stunning views of nebulas and breathtaking panoramas of the final frontier. It’s bigger and 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. 

“Hubble is about the size of a school bus. Its mirror is about 2.4 meters in diameter. JWST stands about four stories tall and has the sunshield that’s about the size of a tennis court,” explained Dr. Straughn. 

The James Webb Space Telescope is able to capture images far beyond the Hubble’s capability. 

“Hubble sees mainly in the optical, visible part of the spectrum. JWST, he says, sees infrared light, light that’s a little bit more red than what our eyes can see, and that allows us to see brand new things about the universe,” said Dr. Straughn. 

This telescope can also detect traces of water on other planets. It could potentially show us if there could be life out there in the universe. 

“This telescope is going to enable us to study exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars in exquisite detail that we’ve never been able to do before. And so what we will do is watch as planets pass in front of their star…watch as the starlight filters through the atmosphere. And from that, be able to tell what is in the atmosphere. And so we’ll be able to detect things like water vapor, which we saw yesterday in this first spectrum of an exoplanet. Things like methane and carbon dioxide, things that sort of are on that step…the stepping stones to be able to find planets that might be habitable,” said Dr. Straughn. 

With this new telescope, the future is exciting and unpredictable. 

“Every time we launch a big, bold telescope into space, we learn things that completely surprise us and this is the biggest and boldest telescope yet,” she said. 

The James Webb Telescope is expected to operate for at least the next 20 years, and everyone is excited to see what it finds.