Incredible Images of Spiral Galaxies Captured by the New James Webb Space Telescope – Latest Global Education News

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has released a set of detailed images of 19 nearby spiral galaxies, captured using its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The NIRCam recorded millions of stars, some scattered across spiral arms and others clustered in groups, all glowing in blue tones. Meanwhile, the MIRI detected glowing dust around and between stars, as well as stars still in their formation stages. These images are part of a broader project called the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) programme, which is supported by over 150 astronomers globally.

The PHANGS programme already includes data from other space- and ground-based observatories such as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Therefore, the new images from JWST provide additional near- and mid-infrared data to the existing ultraviolet, visible, and radio light data.

Dr. Thomas Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, led the data processing from the latest images, a task that took a team of approximately ten people 18 months to complete. He believes that the detailed images could help fill gaps in our understanding of galaxy structure and evolution, star formation, and the life-cycle of stars.

The images also provide insights into galaxy growth, indicating that star formation begins at galaxy cores and extends along their arms. Stars farther from a galaxy’s core are likely younger, while areas near the cores that appear blue-lit contain older star populations. Some galaxy cores are filled with pink and red diffraction spikes.

Alongside the images, the PHANGS team released the largest catalog to date of around 100,000 star clusters. The team hopes to support the scientific community to analyze the vast data and make further discoveries. The JWST is an international project led by NASA, in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

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