The 8 most extraordinary JWST images of 2024, so far

Peer into the otherworldly beauty of spiral galaxies and dusty nebulas.
A spherical collection of stars which fills the whole view. The cluster is dominated by a concentrated group of bright white stars at the center, with several large yellow stars scattered throughout the image. Many of the stars have visible diffraction spikes. The background is black
Globular cluster NGC 6440 orbits within the Galactic bulge of the Milky Way. Observing the densely packed star clusters was a challenge until JWST came along. ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, P. Freire; Acknowledgement: M. Cadelano and C. Pallanca

Nearly one million miles away from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope studies the cosmos.

Since launching on December 25, 2021, JWST has provided ground-breaking insights into the history of our universe. And 2024 has been no different. This year, JWST has already measured “hot Jupiter,captured the birth of stars, found evidence of a neutron star in fiery supernova remains, and brought new insights to the study of wavy-armed spiral galaxies.

We’ve collected eight of our favorite JWST images of 2024 that capture the awe-inspiring glory of space.

A bright young star, located in the upper left quadrant, shines through layers of wispy white and blue clouds on a dark background. The star is surrounded by thick orange spikes in an eight-pointed pattern, overlaid across the majority of the frame. A patch of greenish-yellow clouds appears in the top right area of the image. There are a couple other bright spots seen as glowing yellow dots among the clouds, as well as another bright star with smaller blue diffraction spikes in the bottom right corner.
Inside the Large Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way) is N79, a massive star-forming complex. N79 pumps out stars impressively fast and far faster than similar regions in our galaxy.
Image: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, O. Nayak, M. Meixner ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, O. Nayak,
Many small galaxies are scattered on a black background: mainly, white, oval-shaped and red, spiral galaxies. The image is dominated by a dwarf irregular galaxy, which hosts a bright region of white and blue stars at its core that appear as two distinct lobes. This region is surrounded by brown dusty filaments. At the bottom center of the image, a companion galaxy is visible that appears as a collection of blue stars. In the top right corner, there is a very prominent, bright star that has eight long diffraction spikes.
At the heart of I Zwicky 18 are two bursts of star formation. The irregular dwarf galaxy was first identified in the 1930s, but scientists are using Webb’s powerful resolution and sensitivity in the infrared to look closer at I Zwicky 18 and study the lifecycle of stars. 
Image: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, A. Hirschauer, M. Meixner et al.
In Webb’s image, the spiral arms are composed of many filaments in shades of orange. Thin dust lanes connect from the core, through the bar to the spiral arms.
About 32 million light-years from Earth is NGC 1433, a spiral galaxy with a luminous center. 
Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), PHANGS Team
A clumpy dome of blueish-gray clouds rises about a third of the way from the bottom. Above it, streaky, translucent red wisps brush upward to about halfway up the image. The top half of the image is the black background of space with one prominent, bright white star with Webb’s 8-point diffraction spikes. Additional stars and galaxies are scattered throughout the image, although very few are seen through the thick clouds at bottom and all are significantly smaller than the largest star.
JWST captured the sharpest infrared images of the Horsehead Nebula’s “mane” to date. Inside its celestial blue-grey cloud, young stars can be seen sparkling. 
Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Karl Misselt (University of Arizona), Alain Abergel (AIM Paris-Saclay)
At the center of the image is a nebula on the black background of space. The nebula is comprised of wispy filaments of light blue clouds. At the center-right of the blue clouds is a large cavernous bubble. The bottom left edge of this cavernous bubble is filled with hues of pink and white gas. There are hundreds of dim stars that fill the surrounding area of the nebula.
Hot, massive stars early in their lives lurk in the dust of NGC 604. The star-forming region is located in the Triangulum galaxy, 2.73 million light-years away.
A barred spiral galaxy on a dark, nearly empty background. The whole galaxy glows with a pale blue light, particularly along the galaxy’s bar which runs from top to bottom through the galactic core. It’s speckled with tiny stars. The center is surrounded by rich clouds of hot gas and dust along the arms. The coral-colored arms are loosely wound and a bit ragged, and contain a few star-forming regions that shine brightly
Tucked behind large amounts of dust, JWST captured young stars in the massive arms of NGC 1559, a barred spiral galaxy 35 million light-years from Earth.
Image: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Leroy, J. Lee and the PHANGS Team ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Leroy,
A face-on spiral galaxy with four spiral arms that curve outward in a counterclockwise direction. The spiral arms are filled with young, blue stars and peppered with purplish star-forming regions that appear as small blobs. The middle of the galaxy is much brighter and more yellowish, and has a distinct narrow linear bar angled from 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock. Dozens of red background galaxies are scattered across the image. The background of space is black.
Data from the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes was combined to capture this image of of NGC 5468, a galaxy located about 130 million light-years from Earth.
Image: Webb NIRCam + Hubble WFC3