Just days after the first formal release of its first show-off images scientists using the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have posted some stunning new images of two spiral galaxies.
Posted on 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 spiral galaxy called NGC 7496.
The incredible new images are testament to Webb’s skill at seeing in infrared and thus seeing through the gas and dust that obscures a lot of what is going on in some of the most arresting 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 sees only in visible and near-infrared light.
The first of Webb’s newest views 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 “Phantom Galaxy” is about 32 million light-years distant in the constellation of Pisces. It’s really faint in a small telescope, but through Webb it’s … incredible!
An almost symmetrical spiral galaxy, its dust lanes and arms are made to look like a tunnel by Webb’s 3D-like views.
The image from Twitter, above, shows a purple color cast caused by the emission from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules— a hydrocarbon—that looks bright through Webb’s blue and red filters.
Colorful glowing dust in NGC628/M74 is also visible in this wonderful image from Schmidt:
The image shows a lot of dust glowing at the center. Now compare it to an image of the same object taken by Hubble:
What is PHANGS?
The images are early parts of one of the early “Webb Treasury” studies. The long-running Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) survey has been building a dataset that investigates the links between stars and cold molecular gas in spiral galaxies, most recently using Hubble, but also the ALMA radio observatory and the Very Large Telescope, both in Chile.
The international research team are currently using Webb to survey the stars, star clusters, and dust that lie within 19 nearby galaxies.
The aim is to reveal early star formation when gas collapses to form stars and heats up the surrounding dust.
Webb’s images of NGC 7496
Another image published by the Schmidt at the PHANGS Survey—and actually the first spiral galaxy Webb looked at during its science phase—is of NGC 7496.
A beautiful spiral galaxy abouut 24 million light-years away in the constellation of Grus, it’s stuffed with star clusters and dust lanes.
Here’s how it looks to Hubble:
Now here (below) are the two images from Hubble and Webb combined—incredible!
“The glowing strands and flocks of dust, which would normally be dark in visible light imagery, are instead bright and glowing with infrared light from JWST,” said Schmidt on Flickr.
Stay tuned for more of the latest images from the Webb telescope as it cranks into gear for science.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.