The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has already given us a look at what might be the most distant galaxy ever discovered, and it’s still got about 20 years of deep-space observations left to go. It’s impossible to know what groundbreaking, mind-blowing images of stellar nurseries, colliding galaxies, and dying stars its infrared cameras will beam back to Earth during that time. And given everything we’ve seen so far, you won’t want to miss them.
With the right know-how, you can have the newest JWST images sent directly to your phone and inbox, or whatever device you choose, because setting up these alerts is a heck of a lot easier than checking a bunch of websites whenever you remember.
Turn on Instagram notifications
As one of the most popular social media apps focused solely on sharing photos and videos, Instagram is a natural starting point for anyone hoping to keep tabs on what we’ve seen across the cosmos. Specifically, you can get updates directly from the telescope’s social media account by following @nasawebb. Once you’ve hit that blue button, you’ll have an option to get alerts: just tap the bell icon in the upper right-hand corner and choose the types of posts you’d like to be notified of. Posts? Stories? Reels? Videos? Sure—take it all. Just make sure you have notifications enabled on your phone (Settings > Instagram > Notifications > Allow Notifications on iOS; Settings > Notifications > App Settings > Instagram > All Instagram notifications on Android).
[Related: The best hidden Instagram tricks]
Follow the JWST Flickr page
Like Instagram, but giving off “older sibling” vibes, Flickr is a useful place to find and download high-quality images of whatever the JWST sees. Once you’re on Flickr, go to NASA’s official James Webb Space Telescope page and hit the Follow button. From there, set yourself up to get email alerts whenever they post by clicking your profile avatar in the upper right and navigating to Settings. From there, choose Emails & Notifications and decide how often you want to receive emails about recent uploads from accounts you follow (immediately, once a day, or once a week).
If you follow a number of Flickr accounts and are worried about notifications swamping your inbox, you can simply check the box that says Only Friends & family, please. You will, of course, have to say the JWST is a friend, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing. To do this, go to the space telescope’s Flickr profile, click the three dots next to the “following” box, and mark it as a Friend or Family—or both.
Subscribe to some RSS feeds
Although RSS feeds have fallen out of vogue with the newest generation of internet users, these classic tools are still a great way to stay up to date. Our favorite space photo feeds are:
- James Webb Space Telescope: This is the official JWST blog feed—you’ll get three articles each week with the latest updates on the telescope’s operations and findings. Make sure you choose the feed with the blogs.nasa.gov address.
- NASA Image of the Day: The space agency’s chosen image won’t always come from the JWST, but it’s still a good way to stay up to date with the photos they’re sharing.
- NASA’s Photojournal: Images from the Spacecraft and Telescopes Gallery: This feed shares images from all of NASA’s spacecraft and telescopes, in case you want eyes on all the ways the agency is peering into the universe.
To follow these feeds, go to your favorite RSS reader (if you’re new to this technology, we have a guide to RSS apps that can help you pick), search these accounts, and hit follow.
Sign up for the Space Telescope Science Institute’s newsletter
If you’re interested in the details of the science the JWST is studying, the Space Telescope Science Institute has a newsletter for exactly that. The institute plays a central role in planning observations and analyzing the findings, so it may have insights on the telescope’s operations and images you won’t find anywhere else. To sign up, scroll to the bottom of the institute’s home page, enter your email in the Email Address box, and hit Subscribe.
Set up automated alerts
Any Google user can set up Google Alerts that will push updates on specific topics straight to their email inbox. Head to the Google Alerts page, make sure you’re signed in to your account, and type in keywords related to the topic you’re looking for. Following the theme of this story, you might want to try “James Webb Space Telescope photos” or “JWST image.” Then configure how often you want to receive updates under the Show Options tab, and hit Create Alert. Google will start sending you regular digests of news stories and other newly published pages that contain the keywords you specified.
You can refine your alerts at any time, and if you want more tips, we have a guide dedicated to Google Alerts.
Short for “if this, then that,” IFTTT is a useful way to connect disparate apps. If something happens on one platform, it will trigger something else on another.
For example, you could get NASA’s Image of the Day emailed straight to your inbox instead of looking through an RSS feed, get a weekly status update from the International Space Station (it’s not explicitly JWST pics, but they might do related work), or have your light bulbs change color to match NASA’s Image of the Day—as long as you’ve got Philips Hue smart lights and want to feel a little more bathed in space light. The possibilities are almost as limitless as the space we’ve just begun gazing into.