A new photo taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has revealed the hidden gaseous “bone” structure of a distant galaxy – and it’s absolutely spectacular.
The cosmic knot of gas, dust and stars belongs to the spiral galaxy IC 5332, located in the constellation Sculptor over 29 million light-years from Earth. Since he is almost perfectly face to face with respect to Earthhis spiral arms can be seen incredibly clearly.
This isn’t the first time the IC 5332 has had its photo taken. The 66,000 light-year-wide galaxy – about two-thirds the size of our Milky Way – has also been imaged in the past by the Hubble Space Telescope. But Hubble can’t see into the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrumwhile the James Webb Space Telescope box. As a result, the updated image contains so much previously obscured detail that it looks almost completely different.
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“The Hubble image shows dark regions that appear to separate the spiral arms, while the Webb image shows more of a continuous tangle of structures that echo the shape of the spiral arms,” Agency officials said. European Space Agency (ESA), who captured the new image, wrote in a statement.
The ESA explained that this difference is due to the dust in the galaxy, which is much more likely to scatter ultraviolet and visible light (which Hubble sees) than the infrared frequencies available to the JWST. Different stars are also visible in the two images because some stars shine brighter than others at different frequencies.
To take this image, the JWST used its Mid-Infrared Instrument – a specialized camera which, in order to eliminate the effects of infrared interference from other heat sources, must be supercooled to minus 446.8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 266 degrees Celsius). The JWST’s location in the cold vastness of space, far from Earth, is also key to helping it spot faint infrared light, as our planet’s heat would drown out the signal from the distant galaxy.
About 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, the $10 billion space observatory was launched to a gravitationally stable location 1.5 million kilometers from Earth – known as Lagrange’s point – in December 2021. The JWST is the most advanced space telescope ever built, with the ability to peek inside the atmospheres of distant exoplanets and read the first chapter in the history of the universe in its most faint glimmers of light – which have been stretched to infrared frequencies from billions of years of travel through the expanding fabric of space-time.
Six months of painstaking setup and calibration saw the telescope’s instruments and its 21-foot-wide (6.5-meter) gold-plated mirror ready to go. After unveiling its first images in July, the telescope has wowed with a steady stream of stunning shots of our universe near and far. To name a few, the telescope has captured stunning images of cartwheel galaxies; Einstein rings; the sword of Orion; the ghostly halo of Neptune; and the deepest picture of the universe ever produced.
In the case of IC 5332, ESA scientists hope that by comparing Hubble and JWST images of the distant galaxy, they can learn more about the composition and structure of the galaxy, as well as the how these can translate into more general patterns observed in all spiral galaxies. .
Originally posted on Live Science.
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