James Webb Space Telescope captures images of 'grand design spiral' Phantom Galaxy
The James Webb Space Telescope has recently shared images of the spectacularly spiral M74 Phantom Galaxy, proving why it is the best space telescope made by humanity so far. The photos were shared publicly by the European Space Agency.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may seem like a NASA project considering that it is named after one of NASA's administrators. Though, what gets forgotten behind the nomenclature is that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and European Space Agency (ESA) are also contributors to the program.
For instance, the ESA has contributed to the NIRSpec, MIRI Instrument and also worked to launch the telescope last year. The ESA's efforts are being rewarded by guaranteeing at least 15 percent of the JWST observation time, an arrangement that was also followed for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Capturing the Phantom Galaxy
The Phantom Galaxy lies 32 million light years away from the Earth in the constellation Pisces and is located face-on to our planet. This makes it easier to view it as an object of study.
In addition to this, the spatial arms of the galaxy also make it an attractive object to viewing in the skies. There are many spiral galaxies out there. However, their spirals are rather "patchy and ragged to structures," ESA wrote on its website. In sharp contrast, the M74's spiral arms are prominent and well-defined, earning it the moniker "grand design spiral."
The Hubble Space Telescope has also captured the M74 using its sensors that can capture ultraviolet and visible spectrum wavelengths, and so have other observatories such as Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA, which is based on the ground.
How JWST sees the Phantom Galaxy
The JWST recently captured images of the Phantom Galaxy M74 using its Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI). According to NASA's page on the JWST, the MIRI covers a wavelength range of 5-28 microns and is also equipped with a camera. This allows the instrument to capture wide-field, broadband images of distant galaxies, newly forming stars, and comets that are faintly visible too.
The instrument has allowed scientists to see delicate filaments of gas and dust that are present in the spiral arms of the galaxy, which go outward from the center of the galaxy. Conspicuous in the image also is the lack of gas in the nuclear region, which provides an unobscured view of the nuclear star cluster.
Previously captured images of M74 by the Hubble Space Telescope show bright areas of star formation, which are dubbed HII regions. Researchers at ESA overlaid the data from the JWST over these images to get the new images of the galaxy.
Similar new-found information from the JWST will also help astronomers to pinpoint start-forming regions in other galaxies, measure masses and ages of star clusters, and learn more about the dust drifting in space, ESA said on its website.
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