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James Webb telescope reveals the 'bones' of a distant galaxy in stunning new image

The gaseous "bone" structure of a faraway galaxy has been shown in a stunning snapshot obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and it is simply amazing.

The spiral galaxy IC 5332, more than 29 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor, is home to the cosmic knot of gas, dust, and stars. Its spiral arms are very vividly visible since it sits almost exactly face-on to Earth.

It has been photographed before, like in the case of IC 5332. The Hubble Space Telescope has already captured images of the galaxy, which is 66,000 light-years across and nearly two-thirds the size of our Milky Way. However, the James Webb Space Telescope can see in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, unlike Hubble. The consequence is that the revised image reveals so many features that were before hidden that it seems to be nearly entirely different.

Some of the spiral arms' structures are hidden by dust veils in Hubble's view of IC 5332. (Image credit: J. Lee, the PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams, ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA)

The European Space Agency (ESA), which took the new image, said in a statement that "the Hubble image reveals dark patches that seem to split the spiral arms, but the Webb view shows more of a continuous tangle of structures that reflect the spiral arms' design."

The dust in the galaxy, which is considerably more likely to deflect ultraviolet and visible light (which Hubble sees in) than the infrared frequencies accessible to the JWST, is the reason of this disparity, according to the ESA. Due to the fact that some stars light brighter at certain frequencies than others, various stars are also discernible between the two photos.

The Mid-Infrared Instrument on the JWST was used to capture this image. This particular camera must be supercooled to minus 446.8 degrees Fahrenheit in order to eliminate infrared interference effects from other heat sources (minus 266 degrees Celsius). Since the heat from Earth would cancel out the signal from the far-off galaxy, the JWST's position in the cold, empty expanse of space far from the planet is also crucial for assisting it in detecting weak infrared radiation.

The $10 billion space observatory, which is around 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, was launched in December 2021 to a gravitationally stable region 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth known as a Lagrange point. With the ability to peer inside the atmospheres of distant exoplanets and read the earliest chapter of the history of the universe in its faintest glimmers of light, which have been stretched to infrared frequencies from billions of years of travel across the expanding fabric of space-time, the JWST is the most sophisticated space telescope ever built.

The telescope's components and its 21-foot (6.5-meter) gold-plated mirror were prepared for use after six months of meticulous setup and calibration. The telescope has been awe-inspiring with a continual supply of mind-blowing views of our nearby and distant cosmos since the release of its initial photographs in July. The telescope has generated some incredible photographs, like those of Einstein's rings, Orion's sword, Neptune's eerie halo, and the deepest image of the cosmos ever made, to mention a few.

By comparing the Hubble and JWST photos of the far-off galaxy in the instance of IC 5332, ESA researchers expect to get additional insight into the galaxy's makeup and structure as well as how these could relate to more universal patterns seen in spiral galaxies in general.

Originally published on Live Science.

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