5 spectacular photos of the universe taken by telescopes

The forthcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope offers unprecedented new opportunities for astronomers. It’s also a timely opportunity to reflect on what previous generations of telescopes have shown us.

Astronomers rarely use their telescopes to simply take pictures. The pictures in astrophysics are usually generated by a process of scientific inference and imagination, sometimes visualized in the artist’s impressions of what the data suggests.

Choosing just a handful of images was not easy. I limited my selection to images produced by publicly-funded telescopes and which reveal some interesting science. I tried to avoid very popular images which have already been viewed widely.

The selection below is a personal one and I’m sure many readers could advocate for different choices. Feel free to share them in the comments.

1. Jupiter’s poles