The James Webb Space Telescope continues to provide stunning images of deep space, with this latest revealing the incredible beauty of M74, also known as the Phantom Galaxy.
The Phantom Galaxy has been imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope before, but Webb’s more powerful infrared technology reveals for the first time its “delicate filaments of gas and dust in the spectacular spiral arms that curve outward.” According to The European Space Agency (ESA), which oversees the Webb mission with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The Phantom Galaxy is about 32 million light-years from our planet and, according to the ESA, is “a type of spiral galaxy classified as a ‘large-design spiral,'” meaning that its spiral arms are prominent and well-defined, as opposed to a jagged and jagged structure observed in some spiral galaxies.
The galaxy is located almost facing Earth, a feature that offers observers an excellent view and therefore makes it a favorite of astronomers who want to learn more about the origin and structure of galactic spirals.
Webb’s current work is part of a larger project to map 19 nearby star-forming galaxies in the infrared, with Webb’s technology allowing astronomers to pinpoint the exact location of star-forming regions in those galaxies. ESA says Webb can also help astronomers estimate the masses and ages of star clusters and learn more about the nature of the tiny dust particles that drift through interstellar space.
The James Webb Space Telescope launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida late last year. Positioned in orbit about a million miles from Earth, the most powerful space telescope ever built has been beaming back dazzling images since mid-July, including one that shows Jupiter as you’ve never seen it before.
But the mission is about much more than capturing images of magnificent space scenery, as scientists hope the data from Webb will help them learn more about the origins of the universe and even discover planets like ours that could support life.