As the world’s most powerful and largest space telescope, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has no equal when it comes to observing celestial bodies. Researchers have now used the telescope to peer into a spectacular phantom galaxy, sharing a stunning image of the galaxy’s heart. Located about 32 million light-years away, the Phantom Galaxy, also known as M74, is of particular interest to astronomers for studying the origin and structure of galactic spirals. It is a special class of galaxies called grand design spirals, which have spiral arms that are prominently visible and well defined, rather than brittle and ragged like other spiral galaxies.
The New images of the M74 The feature, shared by the European Space Agency (ESA), reveals delicate filaments of gas and dust in spiral arms that wind outward from the center of the image. The image also does not show the gas in the nuclear region that provides an uninterrupted view of the nuclear star clusters at the center of the galaxy. Webb’s exceptionally sharp vision makes these observations possible.
The JWST telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) was used to peer into the Milky Way and gain a better understanding of the stages of star formation in the Universe. The observations were conducted by the international PHANGS collaboration as part of a larger effort to chart 19 nearby star-forming galaxies. The Hubble Space Telescope and other ground-based observatories had already observed these galaxies, but data from the Web provided scientists with a more comprehensive view.
NASA’s Web telescope also provided a clear view at longer wavelengths that will allow astronomers to zero in on the star-forming regions of galaxies. In addition, it will allow precise measurements of the masses and ages of star clusters, and provide insight into the nature of tiny particles of dust drifting through space.
Hubble observations, meanwhile, highlighted HII regions, or bright regions of star formation. The sharp vision of the Hubble telescope, which operates in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths, compliments the Web’s high sensitivity at infrared wavelengths.
Researchers believe that combining data from such telescopes operating at different wavelengths can provide more insight into celestial objects than using a single powerful observatory.
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