Looks more like a terrifying psychedelic vortex from a Marvel movie than the spiral galaxy shape known from visual telescopes, and the new James Webb Space Telescope image shows the dusty skeleton of the distant galaxy NGC 628.
“This is a galaxy that is probably very similar to how we think our own Milky Way looks,” said Gabriel Brammer, an astronomer at the Cosmic Dawn Center at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. shared the photo on Twitter Monday, told The independent in an interview. “You can see all these nodes with individual stars forming, individual supernovae have gone off and really studying it in detail.”
The spiral alarms of NGC 628 have been imaged before, but the images of the galaxy taken in visible light by the Hubble Space Telescope do not look like the purple spiral structure seen in Web’s mid-infrared image.
“You look at this galaxy with Hubble or with ground-based telescopes,” said Dr. Brammer, “you see blue stars, you see red stars, you see spiral arms, you see dust orbits.”
These dust orbits, he said, reddish-brown filaments in the spiral arms tend to block stars in the visible images taken by Webb and other telescopes.
«In the middle-infrared, what you actually see is the opposite of that, where the dust no longer absorbs; we actually directly observe the actual dust that is now glowing, because the dust itself emits, ”said Dr. Brammer. “We actually see a picture of the gas and dust in this galaxy, instead of the stars.”
Webb took the image of NGC 628 on July 17 and sent it back to Earth where it was logged in the Barbara Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, (MAST), where the data is available to everyone, including the public. Dr. Brammer actually studies very distant galaxies in his own work instead of relatively nearby galaxies like NGC 628, but when he saw the raw image in the data on Monday morning, he knew he wanted to color process the image and share it.
“It was really the first thing that came up,” he said. “It just blew me away the second I had it open on my screen.”
While Nasa made a big showpiece out of revealing the first five, full-color Webb images on July 12, the telescope has barely stood still since, taking continuous images and placing them in the MAST archive, according to Dr. Brammer. For astronomers who have been waiting for more than 20 years for a chance to see what Webb can do, these are extremely exciting times.“
“We’ve been waiting for Webb in some cases for decades now, and we’re not all sleeping much in the last week looking at and looking at as many different Webb pictures as we can,” said Dr. Brammer. “The whole thing is just really spectacular.”