The James Webb Space Telescope just published photographs of the magnificently spiral M74 Phantom Galaxy, demonstrating why it is humanity’s best space telescope to date. The European Space Agency made the images public.

Because it is named after one of NASA’s administrators, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may appear to be a NASA project. What gets lost in the jargon is that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) also contribute to the programme.

For example, the ESA contributed to the NIRSpec, the MIRI Instrument, and the launch of the telescope last year. The ESA’s contributions are rewarded with a promise of at least 15% of JWST observation time, a policy that was also maintained for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Taking Down the Phantom Galaxy

The Phantom Galaxy is 32 million light years away from Earth in the constellation Pisces, facing our planet. This makes it easy to see it as a study object.

Furthermore, the galaxy’s spatial arms make it an appealing object to observe in the sky. There are numerous spiral galaxies in the universe. Their spirals, however, are “patchy and jagged to structures,” according to ESA. The spiral arms of the M74, on the other hand, are conspicuous and well-defined, earning it the moniker “grand design spiral.”

Other observatories, including the ground-based Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA, have also captured the M74 using sensors capable of both ultraviolet and visible spectrum wavelengths.

JWST’s perspective on the Phantom Galaxy

Using its Mid-Infrared Instrument, the JWST recently took photos of the Phantom Galaxy M74 (MIRI). The MIRI has a wavelength range of 5-28 microns and is equipped with a camera, according to NASA’s JWST page. This enables the equipment to take wide-field, broadband photos of distant galaxies, freshly emerging stars, and barely detectable comets.

New images of the Phantom Galaxy, M74, showcase the power of space observatories working together in multiple wavelengths. On the left, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s view of the galaxy ranges from the older, redder stars towards the centre, to younger and bluer stars in its spiral arms, to the most active stellar formation in the red bubbles of H II regions. On the right, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope’s image is strikingly different, instead highlighting the masses of gas and dust within the galaxy’s arms, and the dense cluster of stars at its core. The combined image in the centre merges these two for a truly unique look at this “grand design” spiral galaxy. Scientists combine data from telescopes operating across the electromagnetic spectrum to truly understand astronomical objects. In this way, data from Hubble and Webb compliment each other to provide a comprehensive view of the spectacular M74 galaxy. Links Image A Image B

The gadget has allowed scientists to view fine filaments of gas and dust in the spiral arms of the galaxy, which extend outward from the galaxy’s centre. The lack of gas in the nuclear zone is clearly noticeable in the photograph, providing an unobstructed view of the nuclear star cluster.

Hubble Space Telescope photos of M74 previously collected show brilliant areas of star formation known as HII regions. ESA researchers overlaid JWST data on these photos to create the new images of the galaxy.

According to ESA, similar new information from the JWST will help astronomers find start-forming regions in other galaxies, determine the masses and ages of star clusters, and learn more about the dust travelling in space.