Skip to main content

Telescope team-up sees Hubble and Webb working together

After two images we shared last week showed how scientific knowledge can be increased by tools like the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope imaging the same target separately, this week sees a project in which data from the two telescopes has been brought together.

Both telescopes were trained on the galaxy pair VV 191 and showed how light from the elliptical galaxy on the left filters through the dusty arms of the spiral galaxy on the right. That allowed researchers to learn about the dust in the spiral galaxy. “This is a rather unique opportunity to measure how much dust has been produced in this spiral galaxy, like our own, by previous generations of stars,” explained lead researcher Rogier Windhorst of Arizona State University in a statement. “Mind you that this is the kind of dust that the next generation of stars and planets, and in our case people, are also formed from.”

Galaxy pair VV 191 imaged by Hubble and Webb.
By combining data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, researchers were able to trace light that was emitted by the large white elliptical galaxy at left through the spiral galaxy at right and identify the effects of interstellar dust in the spiral galaxy. This image of galaxy pair VV 191 includes near-infrared light from Webb, and ultraviolet and visible light from Hubble. SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Rogier Windhorst (ASU), William Keel (University of Alabama), Stuart Wyithe (University of Melbourne), JWST PEARLS Team IMAGE PROCESSING: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Hubble observes primarily in the visible light and ultraviolet portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, while Webb looks at the infrared range which is beyond human vision. In pairing up data from both telescopes, researchers used Hubble data for bluish tones in the image and Webb data to pick up on the dust features.

“We got more than we bargained for by combining data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope,” Windhorst said.

That included some surprising findings, like a red smudge to the northwest position of the left-hand galaxy. That smudge is actually another extremely distant galaxy, which has been magnified and distorted in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. You can even just about see its reflection as a dot at the southeast position relative to the foreground galaxy.

“I find it astonishing how Webb can provide for completely unexpected findings, such as the lensed galaxy behind the elliptical galaxy in the VV191 system, with relative ease and with only half an hour of exposure time,” said another of the researchers, Jake Summers, also of Arizona State. “The resolution of Webb never ceases to amaze me — I was blown away by the fact that it can resolve individual globular clusters in the main elliptical galaxy.”

The research has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal but has not yet been peer-reviewed or published.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
This famous supernova remnant is hiding a secret
Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) captured this detailed image of SN 1987A (Supernova 1987A). At the center, material ejected from the supernova forms a keyhole shape. Just to its left and right are faint crescents newly discovered by Webb. Beyond them an equatorial ring, formed from material ejected tens of thousands of years before the supernova explosion, contains bright hot spots. Exterior to that is diffuse emission and two faint outer rings. In this image blue represents light at 1.5 microns (F150W), cyan 1.64 and 2.0 microns (F164N, F200W), yellow 3.23 microns (F323N), orange 4.05 microns (F405N), and red 4.44 microns (F444W).

When massive stars reach the end of their lives and explode in a supernova, they can leave behind huge structures in space called supernova remnants. These are often favorite targets of astronomers because of their beautiful and distinctive shapes. They include the famous SN 1987A remnant that was imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope last year. Now, astronomers using Webb have peered closer at this remnant and found something special inside.

The SN 1987A supernova was first observed in 1987 (hence its name) and was bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, making it extremely recent by astronomical standards. Stars live for millions or even billions of years, so observing one coming to the end of its life in real time is a real scientific treat. When this star died, it created a kind of supernova called a core collapse, or Type II, in which the heart of the star runs out of fuel, causing it to collapse suddenly and violently. This collapse it so severe that the material rebounds and is thrown out in an explosion traveling up to a quarter of the speed of light.

Read more
Hubble spots a massive star forming amid clouds of dust and gas
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is a relatively close star-forming region known as IRAS 16562-3959.

A stunning new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the birth of a new, massive star at around 30 times the mass of our sun. Nestled with a nearby star-forming region called IRAS 16562-3959, the baby star is located within our galaxy and around 5,900 light-years from Earth.

You can see the sparkle of bright stars throughout the image, with the star-forming region visible as the orange-colored clouds of dust and gas stretching diagonally across the frame. These clouds are where dust and gas clump together to form knots, gradually attracting more dust and gas, growing over time to become protostars.

Read more
Hubble spies baby stars being born amid chaos of interacting galaxies
Galaxy AM 1054-325 has been distorted into an S-shape from a normal pancake-like spiral shape by the gravitational pull of a neighboring galaxy, seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image. A consequence of this is that newborn clusters of stars form along a stretched-out tidal tail for thousands of light-years, resembling a string of pearls. They form when knots of gas gravitationally collapse to create about 1 million newborn stars per cluster.

When two galaxies collide, the results can be destructive, with one of the galaxies ending up ripped apart, but it can also be constructive too. In the swirling masses of gas and dust pulled around by the gravitational forces of interacting galaxies, there can be bursts of star formation, creating new generations of stars. The Hubble Space Telescope recently captured one such hotbed of star formation in galaxy AM 1054-325, which has been distorted into an unusual shape due to the gravitational tugging of a nearby galaxy.

Galaxy AM 1054-325 has been distorted into an S-shape from a normal pancake-like spiral shape by the gravitational pull of a neighboring galaxy, as seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image. A consequence of this is that newborn clusters of stars form along a stretched-out tidal tail for thousands of light-years, resembling a string of pearls. NASA, ESA, STScI, Jayanne English (University of Manitoba)

Read more