James Webb Telescope brings new photos of 19 galaxies

A number of new and mesmerising images by the James Webb Space Telescope opened new doors of understanding for scientists about the life cycle of stars as the photographs of 19 spiraling galaxies are captured from near our Milky Way.

The detailed photographs were released by the experts of the project Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS).

As per the scientists, among the 19, the distant galaxy is NGC1365 at a distance of around 60 million light-years from Earth, whereas the nearest one is NGC5068, about 15 million light-years.

A distance of 5.9 trillion miles in which light travels in a year is called a light year.

This image released on January 29, 2024, shows the 19 newly captured spiralling galaxies. — James Webb Space Telescope website
This image released on January 29, 2024, shows the 19 newly captured spiralling galaxies. — James Webb Space Telescope website 

The remarkable James Webb Space Telescope was launched in 2021 and began its operations in 2022. It drastically changed the understanding of the scientists about the origins of the universe with its pictures from deep space.

The captured spiraling galaxies are a common type such as our Milky Way.

University of Oxford astronomer Thomas Williams, who led the team’s data processing on the images, said: “These data are important as they give us a new view on the earliest phase of star formation.”

Williams noted: “Stars are born deep within dusty clouds that completely block out the light at visible wavelengths — what the Hubble Space Telescope is sensitive to — but these clouds light up at the JWST wavelengths.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s image released on January 29, 2024, shows spiral galaxy, NGC 1512’s dust glowing in infrared light with a bright center. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), PHANGS Team

“We don’t know a lot about this phase, not even really how long it lasts, and so these data will be vital for understanding how stars in galaxies start their lives.”

The astronomer also stated: “The commonly held thought is that galaxies form from the inside-out, and so get bigger and bigger over their lifetimes. The spiral arms act to sweep up the gas that will form into stars, and the bars act to funnel that same gas in towards the central black hole of the galaxy.”

These photographs allowed scientists to answer the question about the structure of the clouds formed by gas and dust — the source from where stars and plants come into being — in great detail.

Face-on spiral galaxy, NGC 5068 by James Webb Space Telescope on January 29, 2024. — NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), PHANGS Team

A principal investigator and astronomer of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore Janice Lee stated that “the images are not only aesthetically stunning, they also tell a story about the cycle of star formation and feedback, which is the energy and momentum released by young stars into the space between stars.”

Lee also added: “It actually looks like there was explosive activity and clearing of the dust and gas on both cluster and kiloparsec (roughly 3,000 light years) scales. The dynamic process of the overall star formation cycle becomes obvious and qualitatively accessible, even for the public, which makes the images compelling on many different levels.”

“Using Hubble, we would see the starlight from galaxies, but some of the light was blocked by the dust of galaxies,” Erik Rosolowsky, University of Alberta astronomer, said while adding that “this limitation made it hard to understand parts of how a galaxy operates as a system.

“With Webb’s view in the infrared, we can see through this dust to see stars behind and within the enshrouding dust.”

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