From its perch a million miles away, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is revealing a universe that’s richer and more perplexing than astronomers previously imagined—a cosmos that largely hides behind a veil of dust.
The biggest space telescope in history, JWST pierces that veil by capturing infrared light. Less energetic than the light our eyes can see, infrared light passes more easily through cosmic dust, and the telescope's 21-foot-wide mirror can collect this light from some of the most distant objects in the universe.
“Interstellar dust is more like smoke. It’s smaller than the dust particles on your shelf,” says Jane Rigby, the operations project scientist for JWST. “My dad’s a firefighter, so I think about it like