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A dazzling spiral galaxy 29 million light-years from Earth appears in “unprecedented detail” in a new image released by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
The “Bones” of the GalaxyUsually hidden from view by dust, it is in full view.
The galaxy, named IC 5332, stretches about 66,000 light-years across and is about a third the size of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
IC 5332 is “remarkable for being almost face-on with respect to Earth, allowing us to appreciate the symmetrical sweep of its spiral arms” Press release From the European Space Agency.
To capture the image, the Webb telescope used its Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI, one of the lab’s four most powerful instruments to explore the cosmos.
MIRI is the only web instrument sensitive to light at mid-infrared wavelengths, a wavelength only visible to telescopes. outside Earth’s atmosphere. (Infrared is the term scientists use to refer to light with wavelengths that can be detected by the human eye with the naked eye.)
The Hubble Space Telescope previously observed the galaxy in ultraviolet and visible light using its Wide Field Camera 3.
“The Hubble image shows dark regions that separate the spiral arms, while the Webb image shows a continuous tangle of structures that echo the shape of the spiral arms,” according to the release. The images reveal different stars depending on each telescope’s detectable wavelengths.
The difference in the side-by-side comparison of the images is due to the dusty regions of the galaxy. Ultraviolet and visible light can be scattered by interstellar dust, so dust-heavy regions appear darker in Hubble’s view.
Webb’s ability to detect infrared light penetrates interstellar dust. Together, these two views of the same galaxy reveal more about its composition and structure.
To function, all of Webb’s instruments must be very cold, as even slightly warm materials can emit their own infrared light and distorts an image. The MIRI instrument is kept cold at minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 266 degrees Celsius) — just 7 degrees Celsius warmer than absolute zero. (Absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature on the thermodynamic scale).
Meanwhile, the Webb team is assessing the complexity of one of MIRI’s four tracking methods.
“On Aug. 24, a mechanism supporting one of these modes, called Medium Resolution Spectroscopy (MRS), exhibited increased friction during setup for science observations. The mechanism is a grating wheel that allows scientists to select between short, medium and long wavelengths when making observations using the MRS mode. A blog hosted by NASA.
Observations in this mode are suspended by the Webb team while they determine the path forward. Otherwise, Webb, its instruments, and MIRI’s other three observing systems are doing well.
The web is operated by NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. A $10 billion space observatory, It was launched last DecemberThere is enough fuel to take great pictures for about 20 years.
Compared to other telescopes, the space observatory’s massive mirror can see faint, distant galaxies and has the potential to improve our understanding of the universe’s origins.
of some Webb’s first images, released in July, They have highlighted the observational potential to reveal previously unseen aspects of the universe, such as star birth shrouded in dust.