A fresh image based on brand new deep space data appears to show a wormhole spinning before our eyes.
The aptly named “Phantom Galaxy” glows eerily in a new image by Judy Schmidt based on James Webb Space Telescope data collected nearly a million miles away from our planet using the observatory’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and [Webb] data is new, different and exciting,” Schmidt told Space.com. “Of course I’m going to make something with it.”
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The image highlights the dust lanes in the galaxy, which is more commonly known as NGC 628 or Messier 74. Dubbed “the perfect spiral” by some astronomers because the galaxy is so symmetrical, the Phantom Galaxy is of scientific interest due to its intermediate mass. black holes scientists believe are embedded in the heart.
The galaxy has been professionally imaged many times before, including by space observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). What sets Webb images apart from previous efforts is the mid-infrared region that highlights cosmic dust, along with the power of the unique 18-segment hexagonal mirror and location in deep space.
Webb observed M74 earlier this week. The data was also shared on Twitter (opens in a new tab) (with different filtering) by Gabriel Brammer, an astronomer at the Cosmic Dawn Center in the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Denmark.
A selection of raw Webb images is made publicly available on this portal (opens in a new tab) a few hours or days after observations, and amateur imagers and researchers are free to use the data as long as they credit the source when they publish.
The busy space telescope released its first operational images on July 12 of deep space objects, including a nebula and views of very young galaxies. An infrared view of Jupiter, along with the gas giant’s moons and rings, joined the iconic new images on July 14.
This week’s work alone demonstrates Webb’s flexibility in switching between objects far away near the cosmic dawn — when the stars began to shine — and solar system objects much closer to the viewfinder.
As for Phantom Galaxy, Schmidt used Photoshop and FITS Liberator for most of the work and stated many of the concepts in her 2017 YouTube tutorial (opens in a new tab) will help with today’s more advanced software.
You can check out more spectacular photos of Webb images and other cosmic objects on Schmidt’s Flickr page (opens in a new tab).