What are you doing? Webb’s first deep field What’s special is partly in the name itself: this is one of Webb’s first color images, and as detailed as it is, it’s still just a small fraction of the larger universe. In it we can see a portion of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which is more than 4 billion (yes, billion) light years away.
It’s also like looking through a window in time, because the great distance between SMACS 0723 and Earth means that what we’re seeing is from about 4.6 billion years ago, about when the Earth itself was in the process of forming. We won’t know what this galaxy cluster looks like today for a long, long time.
Due to Webb’s NIRCam’s weeks-long imaging and more than 12 hours of composites spread across different wavelengths, we are left with a very clear and intricate snapshot of thousands of individual galaxies of various shapes and sizes. Also at various distances, as the accumulated gravitational mass of the SMACS 0723 cluster distorts the light coming from the galaxy clusters behind it, making those even more distant systems easier to see. This is a photo filled with an unfathomable number of star systems, and even then it’s still just a fraction of a fraction of a fraction, but it’s also the photo that really catapulted the Webb into greater public awareness.