(NEW YORK) — Officials have released a remarkable new image of the Phantom Galaxy — about 32 million light-years away from Earth — taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
Published first by the European Space Agency, which has been collaborating with NASA on the Webb telescope, the image shows the galaxy — located in the Pisces constellation — in great detail.
Also known as Messier 74, the Phantom Galaxy, with its two well-defined spiral arms, falls under a class known as a “grand design spiral.”
The galaxy has low surface brightness, making it hard to see and requiring clear, dark skies to do so. However, Webb’s sharp lens have captured the clearest image of the galaxy’s features.
“These spiral arms are traced by blue and bursts of pink, which are star-forming regions,” NASA wrote in a social media post. “A speckled cluster of young stars glow blue at the very heart of the galaxy.”
It also provides an unobstructed view of the star cluster at the center of the galaxy, without it being obscured by gas. The Webb telescope can past through gas and dust, which can appear opaque to the human eye.
“The addition of crystal-clear Webb observations at longer wavelengths will allow astronomers to pinpoint star-forming regions in the galaxies, accurately measure the masses and ages of star clusters, and gain insights into the nature of the small grains of dust drifting in interstellar space,” the ESA said.
In the NASA post, there are also differences seen in the way the Webb telescope captured the Phantom Galaxy compared to the Hubble telescope.
The Webb telescope is an infrared telescope, meaning it uses infrared radiation to detect objects in space.
It can observe celestial bodies, such as stars, nebulae and planets, that are too cool or too faint to be observed in visible light — that is, what’s visible to humans.
By comparison, the Hubble telescope sees visible light, ultraviolet radiation and near-infrared radiation.
While Hubble did manage to capture many of the same star-forming regions and young stars, the images are not as clear as the one captured by Webb.
The Webb telescope was launched last December and NASA and ESA began releasing images from the new technology in July.
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