This past Monday (29), the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released several new images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that show different characteristics of spiral galaxies.
In total, the North American space agency released 19 images of these distant cosmic objects that can help scientists understand more about these massive structures.
Because JWST is a high-quality telescope, it was able to capture details that show that no two galaxies are the same when observed with highly precise equipment.
In addition to spiral galaxies, The observations also present interesting details of the stars, gas and cosmic dust that surround these massive objects. The scientists' goal is to use the data to improve understanding of star formation and the evolution of spiral galaxies.
The images feature 19 spiral galaxies, stars, cosmic dust and gas photographed by the James Webb Telescope.Source: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI / Janice Lee / Thomas Williams / PHANGS Team
In an official statement, NASA explains that the images are part of observations from the Physics at High Angular Resolution in Near GalaxieS (PHANGS) program.
Before starting to use data from James Webb, the 150 astronomers who are part of PHANGS were already using images collected by the following instruments: Hubble Space Telescope, Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer and Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
“Webb's new images are extraordinary. They are mind-blowing even for researchers who have studied these same galaxies for decades. Bubbles and filaments are resolved down to the smallest scales ever observed and tell a story about the star formation cycle,” said the scientist of projects for strategic initiatives Janice Lee, from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA.
Spiral galaxy IC 5332.Source: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI / Janice Lee/ Thomas Williams / Rupali Chandar/ PHANGS Team
While JWST's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) was able to capture millions of stars that shine in shades of blue, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) presents the glowing cosmic dust around the stars — stars in the process of formation are presented in red. According to University of Alberta physics professor Erik Rosolowsky, The photographs are from regions where it is possible to observe the youngest and most massive stars in the galaxies.
Spiral galaxy NGC 628.Source: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI / Janice Lee / Thomas Williams / PHANGS Team
As the researchers explain, photos of spiral galaxies can help astronomers discover regions full of gas and dust. For example, in the image of the galaxy NGC 5068, located 20 million light-years away from Earth, near the constellation Virgo, scientists were able to observe large empty holes that may have been created by the explosion of massive stars.
Spiral galaxy NGC 1365.Source: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI / Janice Lee / Thomas Williams / PHANGS Team
“These holes may have been created by one or more exploding stars, carving huge cavities in the interstellar material. Stars can live for billions or trillions of years. By precisely cataloging all types of stars, we can build a more reliable and comprehensive picture of their life cycles,” said astronomy professor Adam Leroy, from Ohio State University, in the United States.
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