The James Webb Space Telescope is continuing to deliver astonishing images of deep space, with this latest one revealing the incredible beauty of M74, otherwise known as the Phantom Galaxy.
The Phantom Galaxy has been captured before by the Hubble Space Telescope, but Webb’s more powerful infrared technology reveals for the first time its “delicate filaments of gas and dust in the grandiose spiral arms which wind outwards,” as per the European Space Agency (ESA), which is overseeing the Webb mission with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The Phantom Galaxy is around 32 million light years from our planet and according to ESA is “a type of spiral galaxy classified as a ‘grand design spiral’, meaning that its spiral arms are prominent and well-defined, unlike the patchy and ragged structure seen in some spiral galaxies.”
The galaxy is situated almost face-on to Earth, a characteristic that offers observers an excellent view and therefore makes it a favorite for astronomers who are keen on learning more about the origin and structure of galactic spirals.
Webb’s current work is part of a bigger project to map 19 nearby star-forming galaxies in the infrared, with Webb’s technology enabling astronomers to discover the precise location of star-forming regions within these galaxies. ESA says Webb can also help astronomers to gauge the masses and ages of star clusters, and learn more about the nature of the small grains of dust that drift about in interstellar space.
The James Webb Space Telescope launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at the end of last year. Positioned in an orbit about a million miles from Earth, the most powerful space telescope ever built has been beaming back dazzling images since mid-July, including this one showing Jupiter as you’ve never seen it before.
But the mission is about a lot more than capturing images of gorgeous space scenery, as scientists hope that data from Webb will help them to learn more about the origins of the universe, and even discover planets like our own that could support life.
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