JWST Reveals Near and Mid-infrared Portraits of 19 Face-on Spiral galaxies

Dr. Swapnil Surwase
6 Min Read

A new set of photos taken with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been released; it includes amazing near- and mid-infrared pictures of 19 spiral galaxies that are facing each other. Above and beyond any previous studies outside our own galaxy, this most recent group of photos provides an unprecedented look at the minute details of stars, gas, and dust in other galaxies.

Scientists are analyzing these images in order to uncover the origins of these intricate patterns. The community’s collective analysis will eventually yield important information for the theorists’ simulations and advance our understanding of the formation and evolution of stars and spiral galaxies.

A collection of high-definition photos of neighboring galaxies was released to the public today. You may find old star clusters and sometimes even active supermassive black holes by following the unique arms of each galaxy, which are teeming with stars. The only instrument that can take pictures with this level of detail using a combination of near- and mid-infrared light is the James Webb Space Telescope.

The Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby Galaxies (PHANGS) program is a large, ongoing endeavor that includes the Webb images. Globally, more than 150 astronomers support this effort. 

Prior to Webb capturing these images, PHANGS already had a wealth of data from various sources, such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer on the Very Large Telescope, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). These data included observations in ultraviolet, visible, and radio wavelengths. Webb’s contributions in the near- and mid-infrared range have added several new pieces to the puzzle.

Webb’s NIRCam, the Near-Infrared Camera, recorded numerous stars in these images, exhibiting a shimmering effect in shades of blue. Several stars are dispersed inside the spiral arms, while others are densely concentrated in star clusters.

The MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) data from the telescope illuminates luminous dust, revealing its presence in the areas situated behind, surrounding, and interposed between stars. Additionally, it highlights nascent stars that are still in the process of developing, as they remain enveloped in the gas and dust that nourish their growth, resembling vivid crimson seeds situated at the summits of dusty mountains. 

Astronomers are astonished by the fact that Webb’s images reveal the presence of expansive, spherical shells in the gas and dust, which could potentially be the result of stellar explosions.

Astronomers analyze the spatial arrangement of the red and orange features in the extended regions of the spiral arms to study the distribution of gas and dust within a galaxy. By examining these structures, one can acquire vital insights into the mechanisms underlying the initiation, sustenance, and termination of star generation in galaxies.

Studies suggest that galaxies undergo radial expansion, with star formation commencing in the central region and extending towards the arms that emanate outward. Stars situated at greater distances from the center region are more prone to being younger in age. 

In contrast, the areas close to the central region that display a blue glow are composed of more mature groups of stars. The existence of pink and red diffraction spikes in the centers of galaxies may indicate the presence of an active supermassive black hole or a high concentration of brilliant star clusters towards the center.

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Dr. Swapnil Surwase As a passionate wordsmith and enthusiast of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dr. Swapnil Surwase brings a unique blend of creativity and expertise to the world of Astronomy and Astrophysics. With a penchant for turning thoughts into compelling narratives, he have four years of experience in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Dr. Swapnil Surwase is dedicated to unraveling complex topics and making them accessible to readers from all walks of life. When not immersed in the world of writing, Dr. Swapnil Surwase can be found reading and researching, proving that life's most enriching experiences often lie at the intersection of curiosity and exploration. Stay connected with Dr. Swapnil Surwase for thought-provoking articles, engaging stories, and a journey through the fascinating landscape of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Connect with Dr. Swapnil Surwase on Instagram @my_space_21 or drop a line at swapnilsurwase317@gmail.com.
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