New images of the spectacular 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 are complemented to provide a complete view of the galaxy.
The ghost galaxy is about 32 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pisces and is almost directly facing Earth. This, along with its well-defined spiral arms, make it a favorite target for astronomers studying the origin and structure of galactic spirals.
M74 is a particular class of spiral galaxies known as a “grand-design spiral,” meaning that its spiral arms are prominent and well-defined, as opposed to the jagged, jagged structure seen in some spiral galaxies.
Webb’s sharp vision has revealed delicate filaments of gas and dust in M74’s grand spiral arms, which curl outward from the center of the image. The lack of gas in the nuclear region also provides a glimpse into the nuclear star cluster at the center of the galaxy.
Webb looked toward M74 with its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) 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 near-infrared star-forming galaxies from the international PHANGS collaboration. These galaxies have already been observed using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories.
The addition of crystal-clear Webb observations at longer wavelengths will allow astronomers to identify star-forming regions in galaxies, precisely measure the masses and ages of star clusters, and gain information about the nature of small grains of dust traveling in interstellar space. .
Hubble observations of M74 have revealed particularly bright areas of star formation known as HII regions. Hubble’s sharp view at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths complements Webb’s unmatched sensitivity at infrared wavelengths, as do observations from ground-based radio telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA.
By combining data from telescopes operating across the electromagnetic spectrum, scientists can gain a greater view of astronomical objects than using a single observatory, even one as powerful as Webb!
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s leading space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries of our Solar System, look beyond distant worlds around other stars, and investigate the mysterious structures and origins of our 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; the MIRI instrument optical bank assembly; the provision of launch services; and personnel to support mission operations. In exchange for these contributions, European scientists will get a minimum share of 15% of the total observing time, like the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
MIRI was contributed by ESA and NASA, with the instrument designed and built by a consortium of nationally funded European institutes (the European MIRI Consortium) in collaboration with JPL and the University of Arizona.
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