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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is providing unprecedented resolution looks at nearby galaxies’ star formation, gas, and dust.

NGC 1433 spiral arms are littered with evidence of extremely young stars releasing energy

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is providing unprecedented resolution at infrared wavelengths to researchers who are getting their first look at nearby galaxies’ star formation, gas, and dust. As a result, the team has produced 21 research papers that give new insights into how the beginnings of star formation impact the evolution of galaxies.

The Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby Galaxies (PHANGS) collaboration, comprising over 100 researchers from across the world, is conducting the largest survey of nearby galaxies in Webb’s first year of science operations. Observations of five of the 19 spiral galaxies studied have already been taken by Webb, revealing a network of highly structured features such as glowing cavities of dust and cavernous bubbles of gas that line the spiral arms.

Team member David Thilker of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, said:

“The clarity with which we are seeing the fine structure certainly caught us by surprise. We are directly seeing how the energy from the formation of young stars affects the gas around them, and it’s just remarkable.”

The high-resolution imaging needed to study these structures has long eluded astronomers. Webb’s infrared capabilities can pierce through the dust to provide clarity.

Team member Karin Sandstrom of the University of California, San Diego, said:

“Areas which are completely dark in Hubble imaging light up in exquisite detail in these new infrared images, allowing us to study how the dust in the interstellar medium has absorbed the light from forming stars and emitted it back out in the infrared, illuminating an intricate network of gas and dust.”

The PHANGS team will work to create and release data sets that align Webb’s data to each of the complementary data sets obtained previously from the other observatories, to help accelerate discovery by the broader astronomical community. Janice Lee, Gemini Observatory chief scientist at the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, said:

“Thanks to the telescope’s resolution, for the first time we can conduct a complete census of star formation, and take inventories of the interstellar medium bubble structures in nearby galaxies beyond the Local Group. That census will help us understand how star formation and its feedback imprint themselves on the interstellar medium, then give rise to the next generation of stars, or how it actually impedes the next generation of stars from being formed.”

Check out the stunning photos in the gallery below.

  • NGC 1433 spiral arms are littered with evidence of extremely young stars releasing energy
  • The spiral arms of NGC 7496
  • NGC 1365 is a double-barred spiral galaxy that lies about 56 million light years away from Earth in the constellation Fornax
  • NGC 1433 (MIRI Compass Image)
  • Nearby galaxy NGC 7496
  • Nearby galaxy NGC 1365

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

NGC 1433 spiral arms are littered with evidence of extremely young stars releasing energy via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab) IMAGE PROCESSING: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
The spiral arms of NGC 7496 via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab) IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)
NGC 1365 is a double-barred spiral galaxy that lies about 56 million light years away from Earth in the constellation Fornax via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab) IMAGE PROCESSING: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
NGC 1433 (MIRI Compass Image) via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab)
Nearby galaxy NGC 7496 via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - News Release Media. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab) IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)
Nearby galaxy NGC 1365 via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab) IMAGE PROCESSING: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Featured Image Credit

NGC 1433 spiral arms are littered with evidence of extremely young stars releasing energy via James Webb Space Telescope with usage type - Public Domain. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab) IMAGE PROCESSING: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

 

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