James Webb: Astronomer Releases Image of Spiral Galaxy Made with Super Telescope Data | Science

She reveals the mysteries of the spiral galaxy NGC 628already observed by the Hubble telescope at other times, but not at this new level of detail that the largest space telescope ever launched by science is able to see.

The color image, a composite of various data released by a research project at the Space Telescope Institute (the body responsible for carrying out the observations, calibrating the instruments and storing the data from Webb and other telescopes), was taken by astronomer Gabriel Brammer, from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Gabriel, who is not directly involved with the super-telescope team, tells the g1 who was already excited to observe this data, but who decided to focus on this particular galaxy because he had a suspicion that the image it would form would be “wonderful”.

“James Webb is now releasing these types of images. It’s a single format, in black and white. So all I did was download that data and combine it into a color image with software that we use for astronomy,” says scientist.

Image of the same galaxy taken by the Hubble telescope. — Photo: NASA/Disclosure

Gabriel reveals that assembling these images into one was “simple”. What he did was combine four different photographs taken by one of Webb’s instruments, called a Mid-Infrared Instrumenta kind of “camera” that observes the universe in infrared (a spectrum that our eyes cannot see), and assigns a specific color to each.

“As these are infrared images, that is, something that our eyes cannot see and never will, what I did was to take some artistic freedom”, says the astronomer.

Purple color is ‘fake’ but reveals never-before-seen structures

As you explain to g1 Brazilian astrophysicist Rogemar Riffel, who had no connection with this work, all astronomical images are “false color”: since we cannot directly assign a color to this type of image, certain colors are chosen to enhance the structures of a astronomical photo.

“And this happened even in previous images by James Webb, or even Hubble. It is not something that we would observe with the naked eye. Filters are used that show, for example, the emission of gases, of dust. color images, in RGB, for example. But the color is always false. Sorry to disappoint”, says Riffel, laughing.

And it is precisely these gases and dust clouds that appear in purple in the image that give this galaxy 32 million light-years from Earth a unique feature.

NGC 628, also called Messier 74, is a perfectly symmetrical spiral galaxy, that is, stars, gases and all the dust that form it are aligned in spiral arms that spread out of this system. Gabriel explains that if we could observe our own Milky Way Galaxy “from a spacecraft thousands of light-years from Earth”, we would have a similar view.

But since all this dust is a problem for telescopes that observe visible light [como na imagem do Hubble acima]the novelty that this Webb image brings is that we can now observe these more dusty regions and all the structures hidden within this cloud.

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Image of M74 taken by the Spitzer telescope. — Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/BEK Sugerman (STScI)

“We can see a wealth of detail in the Webb image. A very well-defined signature of the spiral arms. And it is precisely in these arms where the stars are formed”, says Riffel.

Riffel also explains that although Webb was not the first NASA space observatory that was able to see this particular galaxy in infrared, since Spitzer, retired in January last year, also made a record (see image above), the super telescope will be very useful for science to understand how stars form in regions of the Universe hidden by these layers of dust.

“And understanding how stars form, also implies understanding how our own planetary system and our own Sun formed”, he says.

How does Webb see the past? See the infographic below

Why do we see the past when we look at the stars? — Photo: Art g1

(VIDEO: See the first photos released by the James Webb super-telescope.)

See the first photos released by the James Webb super telescope