New images of the stunning Phantom Galaxy, M74, show the power of space observatories working together at multiple wavelengths. In this case, data from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope complement each other to provide a panoramic view of the galaxy.
The Ghost Galaxy is located about 32 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces, located roughly opposite the Earth. This, along with their well-defined spiral arms, makes them a favorite target for astronomers studying the origin and structure of galactic spirals.
M74 is a specific class of spiral galaxies known as “large design spirals,” meaning that its spiral arms are prominent and well-defined, unlike the patchy and rough structure seen in some spiral galaxies.
Webb’s sharp vision revealed minute filaments of gas and dust in the massive spiral arms of M74, which bulge outward from the image center. The lack of gas in the nuclear region also provides an unobtrusive view of the nuclear star cluster at the center of the galaxy.
Webb stared at the M74 with a mid-infrared instrument (Mary) to learn more about the early stages of star formation in the local universe. These observations are part of a larger effort to map 19 nearby star-forming galaxies in the infrared by the PHANGS International Collaboration. These galaxies have already been observed using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories.
Adding high-resolution Webb observations at longer wavelengths will allow astronomers to determine star-forming regions in galaxies, precisely measure the masses and ages of star clusters, and gain insight into the nature of tiny grains of dust drifting in interstellar space. .
Hubble observations of M74 revealed particularly bright regions of star formation known as HII regions. Hubble’s sharp vision at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths complements Webb’s unparalleled sensitivity at infrared wavelengths, as do observations from ground-based radio telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA.
By integrating data from telescopes operating across the electromagnetic spectrum, scientists can gain more insight into astronomical objects than using a single observatory – even if it’s as powerful as Webb!
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb will solve the mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of the universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. ESA’s main contributions to the mission are: the NIRSpec instrument; MIRI optical bench assembly; provision of launch services; and personnel to support mission operations. In return for these contributions, European scientists will receive a share of at least 15% of the total observational time, such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The European Space Agency (MIRI) and NASA contributed, with the instrument designed and built by a consortium of nationally funded European institutes (the European MIRI Consortium) in partnership with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Arizona.
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