September 22, 2023

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The latest Webb telescope images give a look at stars born in the constellation Virgo

It seems that every few weeks, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) throw out a fascinating image from the James Webb Space Telescope that is at once an amazing look at our knowledge of the universe and its evolution. Last It is from barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, and is called the “barred” galaxy because of the bright central bar that you can see in the upper left of the image above. It’s a composite image made up of infrared snapshots taken from the telescope’s MIRI (mid-infrared instrument) and NIRCam (near-infrared camera) sensors.

What these sensors captured is a galaxy in the constellation Virgo about 20 million light-years from Earth, and because JWST can see through the dust and gas that surrounds stars as they are born, the instrument is particularly suited to producing images that show the process of star formation.

Looking at the two individual images that make up the composite reveals different layers of the galaxy. like gizmodo notesAnd The image produced by the MIRI sensor provides a view of the galaxy’s structure and glowing gas bubbles representing newly formed stars.

ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, and J. Lee

The second image, from NIRCam, focuses on the huge cluster of stars in the foreground. Meanwhile, the composite shows both the huge number of stars in the region as well as the most prominent stars that have just been “born”.

Fine filaments of dust and bright star clusters are seen across this image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.  This view from Webb’s NIRCam instrument is studded with the galaxy's massive cluster of stars, the most densely packed along its bright central bar, along with blazing red clouds of gas illuminated by the young stars within.  These twinkling stars belong to barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, which lies about 17 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.  This image of NGC 5068 is part of a campaign to create an astronomy treasure trove, a repository for observations of star formation in nearby galaxies.  Previous gems from this collection can be seen here and here.  These observations are particularly valuable to astronomers for two reasons.  The first is that star formation underpins many areas in astronomy, from the physics of weak interstellar plasmas to the evolution of entire galaxies.  By observing star formation in nearby galaxies, astronomers hope to start a major scientific advance with some of the first data available from Webb.  The second reason is that Webb's observations are based on other studies using telescopes including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and some of the most capable ground-based observatories in the world.  Webb collected images of 19 nearby star-forming galaxies, which astronomers were then able to combine with Hubble's catalogs of 10,000 star clusters, spectrally mapped 20,000 star emission nebulae from the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and observed 12,000 from dark nebulae.  , dense molecular clouds identified by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA).  These observations span the electromagnetic spectrum and give astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to piece together the details of star formation.  This near-infrared image of the galaxy is filled with the massive cluster of ancient stars that make up the core of NGC 5068. NIRCam's sharp view allows astronomers to peer through the galaxy's gas and dust to examine its stars more closely.  Along the path of the spiral arms are dense, bright clouds of dust: these are H II regions, clusters of hydrogen gas where new stars are forming.  Active, energetic stars ionize the hydrogen around them, which, when combined with emission of hot dust, produces this reddish glow.  H II regions make a great target for astronomers, and Webb's instruments are the perfect tools for examining them, resulting in this image. [Image Description: A close-in image of a spiral galaxy, showing its core and part of a spiral arm. At this distance thousands upon thousands of tiny stars that make up the galaxy can be seen. The stars are most dense in a whitish bar that forms the core, and less dense out from that towards the arm. Bright red gas clouds follow the twist of the galaxy and the spiral arm.] Links NGC 5068 (NIRCam + MIRI Image)

ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, and J. Lee

There is not one specific hack in this photo; Instead, NASA notes, this is part of a broader effort to collect as many images of star formation as possible from nearby galaxies. (No, 20 million light-years doesn’t look quite close to me, but that’s how things work in space.) NASA pointed to a few other images as other “gems” from its star-born collection, including this impressive “Phantom Galaxy.” that was shown last summer. As for what does the agency hope to learn? Simply put, star formation “underpins many areas in astronomy, from the physics of weak interstellar plasmas to the evolution of entire galaxies.” NASA goes on to say that it hopes the data being collected on galaxies like NGC 5068 will help “launch” major scientific developments, though what may remain a mystery.

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