Just days after the first official release of its first demonstration images, scientists using the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have released stunning new images of two spiral galaxies.
Posted to Flickr by Judy Schmidt working on the PHANGS survey, the stunning image above shows the spectacular “Phantom Galaxy” (also called M74 and NGC 628), with others (scroll down) showing another galaxy spiral called NGC 7496.
The incredible new images testify to Webb’s ability to see in the infrared and therefore see through the gas and dust that obscures much of what happens in some of the most striking objects in the night sky.
Scroll down for all the new images and how they compare to those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which only sees in visible and near-infrared light.
The first of Webb’s most recent sights to emerge was the “Phantom Galaxy”, a glimpse of which was first seen on Twitter:
Webb’s images of the ‘Phantom Galaxy’
Also called M74 and NGC 628, the “ghost galaxy” is about 32 million light-years away in the constellation Pisces. It’s really faint in a small telescope, but through Webb it’s…unbelievable!
A nearly symmetrical spiral galaxy, its dust lanes and arms look like a tunnel thanks to Webb’s 3D views.
The image from Twitter, above, shows a purple color cast caused by the emission of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules – a hydrocarbon – which looks bright through Webb’s blue and red filters.
The colorful glowing dust in NGC628/M74 is also visible in this gorgeous image from Schmidt:
The image shows a lot of glowing dust in the center. Now compare it to an image of the same object taken by Hubble:
What is PHANGS?
The images are the first parts of one of the first “Webb Treasury” studies. The long-running Physics at High Angular resolution in Near Near GalaxieS (PHANGS) survey has built a dataset that investigates the links between stars and cold molecular gas in spiral galaxies, most recently using Hubble, but also l ALMA radio observatory and the Very Large Telescope, both in Chile.
The international research team is currently using Webb to study stars, star clusters and dust in 19 nearby galaxies.
The goal is to reveal early star formation when the gas collapses to form stars and heats up the surrounding dust.
Webb’s images of NGC 7496
Another image released by Schmidt during the PHANGS Survey – and indeed the first spiral galaxy Webb examined during his scientific phase – is that of NGC 7496.
A beautiful spiral galaxy about 24 million light-years away in the constellation Grus, it’s jam-packed with star clusters and dust lanes.
Here’s what it looks like for Hubble:
Now here (below) the two images of Hubble and Webb combined – amazing!
“Glowing dust strands and flakes, which would normally be dark in visible light images, look quite bright and shiny with JWST’s infrared light,” Schmidt said on Flickr.
Stay tuned for more of the latest images from the Webb Telescope as it kicks science into high gear.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.