James Webb sees stunning details of the evolution of stars and galaxies with a new look

James Webb‘s sharp infrared eyes show how newborn stars shape their surroundings, giving hints of how stars and galaxies grow and evolve together. The new photos of the space telescope show complex details that could not be seen before by previous observatories. The photos were published in a special February issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

NGC 1365 has a bright band in the core connecting its spiral arms. JWST has detected shining dust at the center of this galaxy, which has been shadowed by preliminary observations. Photo: NASA/ESA/CSA/PHANGS

Before the launch of JWST in December 2021, Janice Lee, an astronomer from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her colleagues selected 19 galaxies that, in their opinion, could reveal new details of the life cycles of stars. These galaxies are relatively close, within 65 million light-years of the Milky Way, and they all have different types of spiral structures. The team observed the galaxies using many observatories, but parts of the galaxies always looked flat and indistinct.

Galaxy NGC628 through the eyes of JWST reveals an intricate network of dust and gas, including shells and bubble-like elements, as well as places of active star formation. Authorship: NASA/ESA/CSA/PHANGS

But James Webb gave scientists the opportunity to look at galaxies with a completely different look thanks to the MIRI infrared instrument. In the new images, the expressions of galaxies are marked by dark voids among shining filaments of gas and dust. Comparison with Hubble Space Telescope images shows that voids are bubbles formed from gas and dust by high-energy radiation from newborn stars in their centers. Then, when the most massive of these stars reaches the end of its life and explodes, this gas is pushed out even more, forming new stars.

Comparing these processes in different types of spiral galaxies will help astronomers better understand how the shapes and properties of galaxies affect the life cycles of their stars, as well as how galaxies grow and change along with their stellar inhabitants.

Earlier we reported on how James Webb found a young copy of the Milky Way.

According to ScienceNews

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