James Webb Space Telescope vs. Hubble

A simple image comparison.

Original Hi-Res version.


HT/Roy Spencer

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Paul Hurley (aka PaulH)
July 12, 2022 12:20 pm
July 12, 2022 12:22 pm

The question I have is, were these the same exposure times? Also, Webb is optimized for infrared wavelengths, whereas Hubble is more skewed towards visible and near-ultraviolet (IIRC)

In any case, the new pics are gorgeous, and show remarkable additional detail in some of the most distant objects we can see.

Reply to  Don
July 12, 2022 2:07 pm

The articles I saw indicated the Webb exposure time was less than 14 hours.

Quick google search says the hubble time was 2 million seconds, which would be 555 hours.

Louis Hunt
Reply to  pkudude99
July 12, 2022 8:53 pm

The NASA video (linked above) says Hubble took multiple images over a ten day period (~240 hours) to create the composite image.

Reply to  Don
July 12, 2022 2:27 pm

It is an apples to oranges comparison. They collect different wavelengths & the “photos” in the case if Webb are really false color computer generations.

Let me know when either produce useful science equivalent to their cost to a government that ran out of money years ago.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  tgasloli
July 12, 2022 3:18 pm

“Let me know when either produce useful science equivalent to their cost . . .”

What a &%#$* metric to use for judging the “value” of basic scientific research.

What was the at-the-time “value” of Heinrich Hertz’s scientific research that proved the existence of radio waves back in the late 1880s?

How about the at-the-time scientific “value” of Einstein’s theoretical derivation of the equation “E=mc^2”?

Bill Parsons
Reply to  tgasloli
July 12, 2022 8:45 pm

It seems to me that it was only the addition of analine and cochineal dyes that allowed Antonie van Leeuwenhoek” to view his little animalcules”. Without those false colors, protozoa, bacteria, rotifers, sperm, etc remain mostly transpartent. To me it’s a question of how far the scientists go in their reproductions and how transparent they are in revealing their artistic license.

Reply to  tgasloli
July 12, 2022 9:31 pm

All digital photographs are false-colour computer generations.

Mikael Nystrom
Reply to  tgasloli
July 13, 2022 1:36 am

Amen 🙂

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  tgasloli
July 13, 2022 10:11 am

I would prefer the government spend money on science than on crack pipes, or NASA efforts to promote political correctness.

Björn Eriksson
Reply to  tgasloli
July 14, 2022 10:31 am

Yes, why not just show the images in original infra red? Please think.

Reply to  Don
July 12, 2022 3:18 pm

The Webb telescope has been optimized to compensate for the extreme redshift of far distant galaxies, i.e., Webb looks into the far infrared, which is to what visible light has degraded. ALL astrophotos of this sort have to be considered “false color images”.

Reply to  Kpar
July 13, 2022 9:36 am

Looking at this a different way, shifting the IR light from these galaxies into the visible range is the equivalent of being billions of light years closer, where the redshift would be much smaller. (And of course travelling billions of years ago.)

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Kpar
July 13, 2022 10:16 am

Any image that has bands other than visible, shifted into RGB, can be considered a false-color image. Unless it is a single band that has the intensity mapped to a color palette such as the colors of the rainbow, which produces a pseudo-color image.

David A
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 13, 2022 9:36 pm

False color or not, and certainly color perception is relative to the perceiving instrument, I have a question about Red Shift for those familiar and better educated than myself in this science.

This “Red Shift is a bit confusing, as we are measuring the past yes? And the degree of past is variable to the distance, so we are measuring where things WERE thousands, millions, and billions of years ago. So how do we know we are not measuring how fast space WAS expanding? Is it possible that space (whatever that is) WAS expanding ever faster, the further back in time we perceive? After all, if the impossible happened, and a galaxy 10 billion light years away reversed its motion towards us, we would not know that happened for about 10 billion years.

And when we map these vast thousands, millions and billions of light years distant galaxies and galaxy clusters, in order to know where they are NOW we would have to know what there motion was over the past thousands , millions and billions of years, as well as know how said space was expanding during that variable time, and this would completely change the map. In ten billion years a galaxy, a galaxy cluster and a super cluster, and variable space expansion, can move stuff a long way.

Reply to  Kpar
July 15, 2022 9:29 am
July 12, 2022 12:39 pm

First of all it’s great engineering success, without top engineers they wouldn’t get very far.
Lot of good science to be done, but I am a just tiny bit sceptical that these are the images of the very early universe as claimed, since it is all based on the value of the Hubble cosmology constant (constant of proportionality in the relation between the velocities of remote galaxies and their distances. It expresses the rate at which the universe is expanding).
p.s no, I do not favour the steady-state model either.

Steve Z.
Reply to  Vuk
July 13, 2022 6:44 am

Re: images of the very early universe

According to the New York Times, the deepest Webb images are 4.5 billion light years away, which is roughly when planet Earth was forming. If that is correct, the light is closer to middle age, since the Milky Way galaxy started forming around 12 billion years ago.

Reply to  Steve Z.
July 13, 2022 9:41 am

In early reports, I saw that number (4.5B years), but more lately I’ve seen 13B years. I’m pretty sure the latter is the correct number. I can’t find the 4.5B number at NYT any more–maybe they corrected it.

lower case fred
Reply to  Steve Z.
July 13, 2022 3:20 pm

The cluster is that far away, the galaxies behind which are gravitationally lensed are farther as are the specs you see.

This image from Hubble gives the red-shift distance for individual galaxies.


lower case fred
Reply to  Steve Z.
July 13, 2022 3:27 pm

It is the cluster SMACS0273 that is 4.5 billion light years away. Other galaxies are much farther.

This Hubble image lets you see the distance of individual galaxies.


Reply to  lower case fred
July 14, 2022 10:01 am

That’s really cool. Farthest I got was 12.9.billion lyrs away in lower left, and it wasn’t the deepest red (it was orange) which is usually the best clue for extreme distance.

July 12, 2022 12:42 pm

Hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that each of these little lights is a distant galaxy with something like 100 billion stars like our sun, billions of light years distant.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Duane
July 12, 2022 3:14 pm

Most are not that big, because the early universe hadn’t built that many stars yet. At this great distance, all the galaxies have the same magnification, that is, closer galaxies do not appear larger. If one galaxy appears larger than another, it Is larger, regardless of whether it is closer or not.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
July 12, 2022 6:45 pm

The photos released and posted here are not early first gen galaxies of 13+ BYA … these are third gen galaxies just 4.6 billion years old. Hubble is collecting images on the oldest galaxies, but not these.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Duane
July 12, 2022 3:14 pm

no, its a few pixels on CCD device.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Duane
July 12, 2022 4:06 pm


Some of those “little lights”, especially the ones with surrounding diffraction spikes, are nearby stars (i.e., stars in our Milky Way galaxy). If it’s a diffuse “little light”, as opposed to being a “point source”, then it is very likely to be a distant galaxy, especially if there is a noticeable arc to the diffuse object (due to gavitational lensing).

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 12, 2022 6:42 pm

You’re an ignorant prick and also wrong – they are ALL little lights. Jeezus

I bet the other boys is school beat you up on a regular basis sending you home crying to mommy, for being obnoxious.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Duane
July 12, 2022 10:42 pm

With your reply, all you have done is to show me, as well as other WUWT readers, that you yourself are a “little light”.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Duane
July 13, 2022 10:32 am

You have done yourself no favors with your angry, coarse response. There is an old saying that, “We are often our own worst enemies.”

Dave Fair
July 12, 2022 12:48 pm

Me, after putting on my glasses.

July 12, 2022 1:18 pm

Real science without agenda climate change BS is refreshing.

July 12, 2022 1:30 pm

Awesome! Two absolutely beautiful images, and the one on the right is drastically better. You don’t say which is which.
I assume Hubble is the inferior image, but Hubble will still be badly wanted by astronomers who don’t get time on the new one, so there is no excuse for taking Hubble down.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
July 12, 2022 2:30 pm

Nobody will take Hubble down. It will eventually take itself down as it is reaching planned end of life. Hopefully not too soon. There have already been two more than week long glitches in the past year, both eventually resolved by NASA work arounds. Both just age related.

Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
July 13, 2022 9:45 am

While the Webb image (on the right) shows lots more galaxies, the Hubble image is more different than it is worse. The difference lies in the wavelengths that each can see; Hubble is in the visible and lower UV (and I think the upper IR), whereas Webb is in the IR range. Some things glow more in one of those ranges than the other, while some nebulosities absorb more in one of the ranges–so the UV or visible light can show things that the IR does not, and vice versa. Not to mention that redshift brings visible and even UV light from very distant galaxies down into the IR.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
July 13, 2022 10:41 am

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While the JWT image resolves more features and generally has higher contrast, the brightest points in the image have strong blooming and asterated diffraction rays that reduce the contrast of nearby objects. If one’s research interest is in those objects degraded by proximity to the brightest features, they may prefer the Hubble image.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 15, 2022 6:35 am

I’d think they’d have a way to process out or block those nearby stars.

July 12, 2022 2:06 pm

The light emitted by those objects is so old that it predates agenda climate science.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
July 12, 2022 3:19 pm

The light from some of those objects predates the Earth itself!

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  ResourceGuy
July 13, 2022 12:54 am

Please don’t encourage them…if you can’t find a link, no matter how insane, you haven’t thought hard enough…

D.M. Anderson
July 12, 2022 2:28 pm

What are all the streaky bits?

Pete Bonk
Reply to  D.M. Anderson
July 12, 2022 2:35 pm

Streaky bits might be the smoke from a distant fire, possibly California, a long time ago.

With apologies to the Sanford Townsend Band 😃

Stephen Dudley Haner
Reply to  Pete Bonk
July 12, 2022 2:52 pm

Ask Einstein about the streaky bits. He predicted them a century ago.

Reply to  Stephen Dudley Haner
July 12, 2022 3:20 pm

That depends on which “streaky bits” Anderson is referring to. The gravitational lensing is what you are referring to, but there are some others less clear.

Reply to  Pete Bonk
July 13, 2022 2:09 pm

Golly, I just had to chuckle at that posting ☺☺☺

One of the great one-hit wonder bands, brings back great memories of the mid 70s top 40 radio

Reply to  D.M. Anderson
July 12, 2022 3:20 pm

Probably gravitational lensing, where the gravity of a closer object bends the path of light from a more distant one.

Gordon A. Dressler
July 12, 2022 3:30 pm

It is fascinating to see the gravitation “lensing” in the exquisitely detailed view of far galaxies on the right side of the comparison photo above . . . that is, all the individual galaxies are distorted along arc segments that appeared to be centered on the central left side of the photo.

This is something that is almost unavoidable as one images very deep space . . . the farther out one looks, the greater the probability that light in the field-of-view has passed by a least one massive galaxy located somewhere around mid-point of the distance that light has travelled.

More proof the Einstein got it right: light follows the curvature of space as it is “distorted” by gravity!

July 12, 2022 3:41 pm

I’ve been flummoxed by this first image. It looks like there is a swirl of galaxies towards the center. My guess is there might have been some motion of the vehicle around the image axis.

Joe Dun
Reply to  2BAFlyer
July 12, 2022 5:42 pm

The “swirl” is because of gravitational lens, caused by the cluster of galaxies [galaxy cluster SMACS 0723] which is at the center of the image. In fact, some of the galaxies seem to be double images of the same galaxy. One view on each side of the galaxy cluster. I wonder if a kind of stereoscopic image could be extracted from this.

Reply to  Joe Dun
July 12, 2022 7:20 pm

I’ve reached out to some friends who are image scientists. There is agreement on the theory of gravitational lensing. If there truly was some minor spin on the image axis we would see consistent smear.

Rich Lambert
July 12, 2022 3:43 pm

Nice, but is it worth the cost?

Reply to  Rich Lambert
July 12, 2022 9:36 pm

Yes, absolutely.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Rich Lambert
July 13, 2022 10:47 am

Would you prefer the money be spent on some of Biden’s pet ‘wokeness’ projects? Speaking of the cost, do you approve of the Artemis Program, whose major goal is to be able to say that a woman has also walked on the moon? Science is of secondary concern.

Rich Lambert
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 13, 2022 3:33 pm

Or the money not spent at all. Only thing I’m asking is it worth the cost?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Rich Lambert
July 15, 2022 3:11 pm

Is a new baby worth the “cost” of carrying it to term and hospital delivery?

Joseph Borsa
July 12, 2022 5:31 pm

Re: is it worth the cost?

Considering the amount of money that is spent on all sorts of projects of dubious merit (Solyndra comes to mind) the tiny fraction of our GDP that goes into this type of science is worth every penny. It all goes towards a better understanding of our place in the universe.

Bill Parsons
July 12, 2022 7:01 pm


Since there are no captions, shouldn’t the headline read “Hubble vs.James Webb” comparison? (left to right)?

Another source identified the “six-spiked” images as stars. Does that mean those are stars within our own galaxy?

Most astounding: News Hour’s science adviser Miles O’Brien tonight showed an image of what he calls an exoplanet, and he accompanied the picture with with commentary about its watery, red atmosphere… did I hear correctly? Are we capturing images of planets from other solar systems now, or is this an artists’ conception?

Ronald Havelock
Reply to  Bill Parsons
July 12, 2022 8:58 pm

Purely an artist’s conception. We have yet to resolve the image of a single star anywhere, regardless of proximity or size, let alone a planet even of Jupiter size. What we should get from these images is the reality that the universe contains trillions of stars just like our sun, same age or older, and among them are most likely millions of life-supporting planets, and among those there are surely thousands of planets supporting civilized human-like life.Iin many cases, life on such planets will be millions of years more advanced than we are. The logic is inescapable. The idea that we are alone and uniquely advanced is a hubristic conceit and an absurdity.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Ronald Havelock
July 12, 2022 11:19 pm

Sorry, RH, but incorrect on several points.

1) All images above are actual long-exposure photographs, not artist’s conceptions, although they have been enhanced by using false colors to bring out details. And of course, JWST images in the infrared, so all photos taken by JWST have necessarily been computer-processed to shift the spectrum into the visible light range of the human eye.

2) It is true that astronomers have not yet photographed the disks subtended by the stars nearest to Sol, let alone any others in the Milky Way, but they clearly have imaged the disks of all of Sol’s planets, some in extraordinary detail such as Jupiter “red spot” and Saturn’s rings.

3) There are an estimated 10^22 to 10^24 stars in our universe (ref: https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Herschel/How_many_stars_are_there_in_the_Universe ). This is 10^10 to 10^12 times one trillion . . . or at least 10 billion trillion stars. JWST is likely to show that this is an underestimate!

4) Our Sun is at least a second-generation star. All of the stars in the distant galaxies seen in the JWST photos in the above article would be first-generation stars based on how far we are “looking back in time” in these photos. That is, based on the length of time it has taken their emitted light to have reached us . . . and all, of course, based on our current knowledge of both cosmology and stellar evolution.

I do agree with your optimism that humans may not be alone in the universe; the odds appear to favor extraterrestrial life, as you point out, but we simply do not have the data to prove or disprove such. The Fermi paradox has yet be satisfactorily resolved.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 13, 2022 9:55 am

Re 1): The image of the planet behind the spectrogram is actually an artist’s rendition, and the spectrogram itself is computationally derived: it represents the difference between the spectrogram of the parent star between when the planet is in front of it and when it’s not in front. (The planet is much smaller than the star, hence the spectrogram is only partly altered.)

Re 2): Depends on what you mean by “image”. There are “images” of Betelgeuse made in the millimeter/ sub-millimeter range by an array of radio telescopes, converted into depictions in light visible to our eyes.

Re 4) Right, but one of the images released was of Stephen’s Quintet, which is relatively (pun intended) close, and probably most of the stars making up those galaxies’ light are second (at least) generation stars.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  mcswell
July 13, 2022 11:21 am

What image of what planet behind what spectrogram is to be found in the above article?

Please point it out.

Given this, there is no need for me to reply to the rest of your comment.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 13, 2022 8:47 pm

Then perhaps you should go look at Bill Parson’s comment I’m responding to (and to which you were, at least secondarily, responding to, by way of responding to Havelock’s comment)–because he’s not actually referring to the “above article”.

But since you didn’t look that far, I’ll quote the comment for you: “ News Hour’s science adviser Miles O’Brien tonight showed an image of what he calls an exoplanet…” I believe Parson is referring to this article, an interview with Miles O’Brien: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/nasas-webb-space-telescope-offers-a-window-into-the-cosmos , although O’Brien doesn’t actually say there’s an image, he just says “Look at this exoplanet which orbits around a star called WASP-96b…”, which could mislead a listener into thinking that you could actually look at a picture of this exoplanet.

You can find the image that O’Brien is probably referring to elsewhere, like https://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages (then click on the label “WASP-96 B”). If you know anything about astronomy and the Webb observatory, you know that the picture of a planet is purely an artist’s conception–but the NASA press release does not make that clear, which has led to confusion here and elsewhere.

There, is that clear enough for you?

And I’ll wait with bated breath for your reply to the rest of my comment. Not.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  mcswell
July 14, 2022 7:29 am

“But since you didn’t look that far . . .”

Wow, that’s a real rabbit hole you’ve gone down!

1) Neither Bill Parsons’ post at the top of this tread, nor Ronald Havelock’s reply to it, made any reference to a “spectrogram”.

2) Your statement: “I believe Parson is referring to this article . . .” does speak to your belief system, but not so much to your logic.

3) Your statement: “If you know anything about astronomy and the Webb observatory, you know that the picture of a planet is purely an artist’s conception . . .” Well, what I do know about astronomy is that ground based telescopes and video cameras carried aboard more than a dozen interplanetary spacecraft have actually obtained images of all the planets in our solar system.

What is clear is that facts matter.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 14, 2022 12:45 pm

I can see you are having trouble keeping up.

1) “Neither Bill Parsons’ post at the top of this tread, nor Ronald Havelock’s reply to it, made any reference to a “spectrogram”.” I didn’t say they did. The image of the WASP-96 B planet–which Parson’s post refers to–appears behind a spectrogram as a sort of illustrative backdrop in the web page I linked to on the nasa.gov website.

2) “Your statement: “I believe Parson is referring to this article . . .” does speak to your belief system, but not so much to your logic.” I thought it would be obvious, but I guess you’re too dense. Parson refers to an interview he heard; the article I pointed to is a transcript of that interview.

3) “Your statement: “If you know anything about astronomy and the Webb observatory, you know that the picture of a planet is purely an artist’s conception . . .” Well, what I do know about astronomy is that ground based telescopes and video cameras carried aboard more than a dozen interplanetary spacecraft have actually obtained images of all the planets in our solar system.” Can you say “irrelevant”? I knew you could! The planetary image we’re talking about (actually, an artist’s conception) is of a planet 1200 light years away, hence obviously outside our solar system. (And BTW, we had telescopic images of all the planets in our solar system a century before we had any space probes–or decades before, if you count Pluto.)

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  mcswell
July 15, 2022 3:24 pm

There is a phrase that you should take to heart:
“When you find that you are digging yourself deeper ant deeper into a hole, the first rule is to stop digging.”

You comment that “And BTW, we had telescopic images of all the planets in our solar system a century before we had any space probes” is provably FALSE.

The first space probe to successfully image another planet was Mariner-2 which flew by Venus in December 1962,

I defy you to present a ground-based telescope image of the disk of Neptune or Uranus that was obtained prior to Dec 1962 . . . such simply does not exist.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 13, 2022 10:56 am

… although they have been enhanced by using false colors to bring out details.

I don’t think you really understand image processing. Any electromagnetic energy recorded that is not in the range of visible light, can only be rendered for observation by using visible light of a display device to proxy for the invisible EM radiation. It isn’t a matter of “enhancement.” It is a necessity for allowing human observation.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 13, 2022 11:17 am

Imagine enhancement often involves using a wide range of visible colors—say, deep purple all the way to deep red—to distinguish a much smaller range of variation in absolute energies in the EM spectrum.

Similarly, this technique is also done very frequently in presenting weather parameters by color coding a range of temperatures, or pressures, or wind speeds, or humidity, or precipitation, or healthy/unhealty air conditions over give areas or over given time periods. Perhaps you’ve seen such.

Any electromagnetic energy recorded that is not in the range of visible light, could properly be rendered for observation by a monochrome selection of visible light, say shades of red, on a display device as proxy for the invisible EM radiation. But seeing intensity value variations is nowhere near a helpful as mapping the intensity variation (aka energy variations in astrophotographs) into a range of “false colors”.

I really do understand image processing.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
July 14, 2022 3:46 am

What stories will people invent when noting that Avogadro’s Number is 6.02×10^23. Geoff S 

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
July 14, 2022 7:45 am

Hmmmm . . . interesting observation, that.

I dare not go there.

July 13, 2022 6:09 am

Webb Hubbell must be very important to have two telescopes named after him.

July 13, 2022 7:01 am

This is going to be like I just found my glasses after squinting for many years. Am relieved it made it to the orbital L2 position and appears to be functioning as intended. Let’s hope for 25+ years (like Hubble) of viewing and discovering things we never knew. In a world of bad news, this is a glimmer of good news on the horizon. I wonder what we will find out, and hope I live long enough to find out. Good luck JWST!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Earthling2
July 13, 2022 10:58 am

At the rate it is getting its mirrors nicked, we might not be that lucky.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 13, 2022 1:22 pm

Oh no…haven’t heard about the gold plated mirrors getting nicked. Presumably from micro-meteors? If the location around the L2 orbit also collects small dust and even the smallest micro meteor traveling thousands of MPH, then is just some matter (no pun intended) of time for the sun shade the size of a tennis court to also get damage from any micro meteors. And we can’t just go to the L2 orbital location that JWST is on a million miles away and fix anything like the Space Shuttle was able to repair Hubble after polishing the mirror for the gravity of the good Earth, and not for the microgravity of LEO orbit. That was a first order screw-up, but luckily it was able to get fixed. I guess we cross our fingers and hope for the best. But that isn’t a strategy.

Michael in Dublin
July 13, 2022 8:47 am

This should deflate the hubris of those who think we can comprehend and explain the complexities of climate as our minds are blown by the vast size and complexity of the universe.

July 13, 2022 9:14 am

At least we now know that electromagnetic radiation does not yet appear to have a life span,
4 billion years and still going in a straight line at the same speed, (I know thats not correct, but you know what I mean)

Matthew Schilling
Reply to  jono1066
July 14, 2022 12:40 pm

Does light experience time? It would seem not, if it presents an image of how its source existed when it departed – no matter how much time passes before it is processed and interpreted.

July 13, 2022 10:00 am
July 13, 2022 5:22 pm


July 13, 2022 8:25 pm

Nothing new, just more detail. Why red galaxies (presumably more red shifted and more distant) show still fully formed structures? Where are the proto galaxies or Webb has to do proper deep field like Hubble in between the galaxies like Hubble did?

July 14, 2022 7:15 pm

What’s the source for the increase in lens flare? Perhaps this is just my ignorance of IR telescopes. I don’t see much difference in the two examples provided except a higher contrast and additional color intensity. Perhaps an example will come later that shows additional stars/galaxies that weren’t visible before as opposed to just being dimmer.

July 15, 2022 3:48 am

Is that an alien space ship in the lower-right?

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