The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has captured 19 nearby spiral galaxies in a different light. The images revealed intricate details of each galaxy’s spiral arms, pockets of star clusters, and lacy, carved-out filaments of gas in the interstellar material. Webb’s NIRCam and MIRI instruments captured the glowing gas and points of light.
“Webb’s new images are extraordinary,” said Janice Lee, a project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, in a statement. “They’re mind-blowing even for researchers who have studied these same galaxies for decades. Bubbles and filaments are resolved down to the smallest scales ever observed and tell a story about the star formation cycle.” The study was published in The Astronomical Journal on December 29, 2023.
New James Webb Telescope Images Gather Dust
Aside from capturing a stunning new view of neighboring galaxies, a team of researchers at Ohio State used the images to study how galaxies may distribute their gas and dust. They found that the shape and width of gas stayed similar in the outer parts of galaxies, regardless of what the center looked like.
“Because this dust traces out the fuel for future generations of stars,” said Debosmita Pathak, study lead author and graduate student at Ohio State, in a statement. “The similarity we see among galaxies hints that some aspects of star and planet formation may be universal across galaxies.”
The images of the galaxy are part of the PHANGS-JWST Cycle 1 Treasury, a survey that is working towards understanding galaxy evolution. From photos, the team could chart each galaxy’s dust emission.
JWST Images Reveal Star and Planet Formation
The 19 images are spiral galaxies found near the Milky Way Galaxy. Each galaxy shows how the dust and heat contribute to star and planet formation. With each image, collaborators can understand how dust is distributed in each galaxy and what the galaxy’s disk looks like.
“It’s hard for us to get a global perspective of the Milky Way,” said Pathak in a statement. “This study tells us that if you looked at it as an outsider, you would see something similar to what we saw for a bunch of other nearby galaxies.”
1. IC 5332
IC 5332 is a spiral galaxy located 30 million light years away from Earth. It resides in the constellation Sculptor and is in a 'face-on' position where the galaxy's disk faces our planet. With a diameter of 66,000 light years, the galaxy is a third smaller than our spiral galaxy, the Milky Way.
2. NGC 1087
NGC 1087 is a barred spiral galaxy and lies about 80 million light-years from Earth. The galaxy's stellar bar or the bright elongated center is shorter than other barred galaxies. This interesting galaxy also holds one supernova called, 1995V.
3. NGC 3351
NGC 3351 resides in the sky about 30 million light years away from Earth in the constellation Leo. This galaxy hosts a supernova in the outer region of its spiral arms called SN 2021aw.
4. NGC 1385
NGC 1385 is located about 30 million light-years from Earth and is found within the constellation, Fornax.
5. NGC 4303
NGC 4303 (also known as M61) is about the same size as the Milky Way. It's found roughly 55 million light-years away from Earth in the Virgo Galaxy cluster. M61's diameter is about 100,000 light years.
6. NGC 1365
NGC 1365 is found 56 million light years away from Earth. It's classified as a double-barred spiral galaxy and resides in the Fornax constellation. The galaxy is twice the length of the Milky Way galaxy.
7. NGC 1300
NGC 1300 is known as a barred spiral galaxy. These types of galaxies have arms that do not spiral back toward the center of the galaxy, but connect through a star bar that crosses through the galaxy's center. NGC 1300 is 69 million light-years away in the Eridanus constellation.
8. NGC 2835
NGC 2835 is located 35 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. For this reason, it has the nickname, 'eye of the serpent.' A supermassive black hole millions of times the mass of the Sun lies in the galaxy's center.
9. NGC 7496
NGC 7496 is found over 24 million light-years away in the Grus constellation. This galaxy is interesting to researchers because its spiral arms contain bubbles and shells that overlap each other. The holes are evidence of star formation and young stars carving the dust of the galaxy's interstellar medium.
10. NGC 1566
NGC 1566, also known as 'the Spanish Dancer Galaxy,' lies 60 million light-years away from Earth in the Dorado Constellation. The galaxy gets its nickname from the dramatic swirl of its spiral arms.
11. NGC 4535
NGC 4536 is found in the constellation Virgo at about 50 million light-years from Earth.
12. NGC 1672
NGC 1672 is found 60 million light-years away in the constellation, Dorado. It is also known as a Seyfert galaxy or a galaxy with an active nucleus.
13. NGC 1433
NGC 1433 is intriguing to researchers because it has a double-ring structure at the center. The galaxy is located 43 million light-years away from Earth in the Horologium constellation.
14. NGC 1512
NGC 1512 is located 30 million light-years away from Earth. The galaxy's center is unique because it holds a bright circle of baby star-clusters called, a circumnuclear starburst ring. The ring spans about 2,400 light-years wide.
15. NGC 5068
NGC 5068 is found in the Virgo constellations about 20 million light-years from Earth. Experts have found about 110 Wolf-Rayet stars in this galaxy. Wolf-Raylet stars are about 25 times bigger than the mass of our Sun and a lot brighter. Still, the galaxy is hard to see with the naked eye because it is not bright enough. Telescopes observe these types of galaxies in infrared or ultraviolet making them visible to us.
16. NGC 4321
NGC 4321, also known as M100, is found 55 million light-years from Earth. It is located in the constellation Coma Berenices. It was discovered in 1781.
17. NGC 4254
NGC 4254 (M99) is also around 55 million light-years from Earth and is located in the constellation Coma Berenices. This galaxy's structure is similar to the Milky Way galaxy because of its long spiraling arms.
18. NGC 3627
NGC 3627 (M66) is found 36 million light-years away. Within the constellation Leo, the galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole in its center. The galaxy is part of the galaxy group known as the Leo Triplets, which include galaxies M65 and NGC 3628.
19. NGC 0628
NGC 0628 (M74) resides in the constellation Pisces at 32 million light-years way from Earth. The galaxy faces towards Earth and has gorgeous symmetrical spiral arms. Its estimated that the galaxy holds 100 billion stars.
Our writers at Discovermagazine.com use peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources for our articles, and our editors review them for accuracy and trustworthiness. Review the sources used below for this article:
Ohio State News. Study delivers detailed photos of galaxies’ inner structures
The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The PHANGS–JWST Treasury Survey: Star Formation, Feedback, and Dust Physics at High Angular Resolution in Nearby GalaxieS