James Webb photographs stellar fireworks in a neighboring galaxy

Astronomers working with the James Webb Telescope (JWST), have published a spectacular new image. It shows the dwarf galaxy NGC 4449.

Galaxy NGC 4449. Source: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Adamo (Stockholm University) and the FEAST JWST team

NGC 4449, also known as Caldwell 21, is located 12.5 million light-years away from the Milky Way toward the constellation Canes Venatici. It is part of the M94 group of galaxies, which is located near the Local Group, where our Milky Way is located.

The image was obtained by combining near- and mid-infrared images. They allowed to reveal a number of features of the galaxies’ structure.  The bright bluish spots show countless individual stars, while the bright yellow regions correspond to so-called stellar maternity houses where new luminaries are actively forming. The bright red regions are hydrogen-rich areas ionized by radiation from newborn stars.

According to the researchers, the galaxy photographed by JWST has been forming stars for several billion years. But now it is experiencing a real burst of star formation and is giving birth to new luminaries at a much higher rate than in the past.  At the current rate, it will have enough gas reserves for about another billion years.

In general, star formation outbursts occur in the central regions of galaxies. But NGC 4449 shows a much wider range. New stars appear not only in the core, but also in the streams surrounding it.  Most likely, such activity is caused by interaction with neighbors. Scientists believe that recently NGC 4449 absorbed a smaller galaxy. In this way, it resembles the very first galaxies in the Universe, which grew rapidly in a similar fashion.  Because NGC 4449 is close enough to observe it in great detail, it is an ideal laboratory for astronomers studying what may have happened during the time shortly after the Big Bang.

Recall that recently James Webb broke its own record and photographed the most distant galaxy in the Universe.

According to https://esawebb.org