The Whirlpool is a spiral galaxy, much like our own Milky Way. Its graceful, curved spiral arms contain billions of stars. It’s about 27 million light-years from Earth, in the direction of our constellation Canes Venatici, also known as Hunting Dogs. On August 29, 2023, the European Space Agency (ESA) Released New images of the vortex from the James Webb Space Telescope.
The images give us a new perspective on this galaxy, which is one of the most viewed and photographed galaxies ever.
A spiral galaxy with a grand design
The Whirlpool galaxy is what scientists call B A spiral galaxy with a grand design. This means that its spiral arms are more developed than most other spiral galaxies. The galaxy’s arms, dotted with stars, swirl gracefully around the galactic center, like a giant pinwheel.
The Whirlpool is impressive enough as it can be seen in normal visible light. But now, the new photos are from Webb — on both near infrared And mid-infrared – take it to another level. In fact, the mid-infrared image is particularly stunning, with stunning detail visible. The dark red areas are filled with warm dust. In contrast, the ionized gas causes a more yellow-orange color in other areas. In addition, shiny knots of material can also be seen, as well as black “bubbles”.
Galaxy image of a spiral
The new image of the Whirlpool galaxy released by the European Space Agency is actually a combination of two images. One is the near-infrared image captured by the near-infrared webcam (nercam) arrest. Similarly, the Web Tool Infrared Medium (Merry) Take another mid-infrared photo. Although Webb is primarily a NASA mission, the European Space Agency contributed half of MIRI’s instrument.
The scientists then combined the two separate images into one beautiful image of the galaxy.
A feast for the eyes
All in all, the resulting composite image of the galaxy is stunning. Sure you could say it’s a treat for the eyes! Indeed, the image is just one of a series of new images that astronomers have recently obtained. Collectively, these observations are called “feedback in extragalactic star clusters”, or Feast.
FEAST studies star formation reactions and how energy from stars returns to the environments in which they formed. This movement of energy is called stellar feedback. It helps scientists determine how quickly new stars are forming and create accurate models of star formation.
FEAST focuses on star-forming regions in galaxies outside our own Milky Way. In this way, astronomers can study star formation in the universe in general, not just in our galaxy. And with Webb, astronomers can now see star clusters in galaxies outside the Local Group of galaxies, of which the Milky Way is a part.
In addition to their composition, astronomers can now better understand how long it takes metallic elements to “pollute” new stars. They can also determine how long it takes stars to clean up the remaining gases around them. It is the gas and dust from which new planets are formed.
Interestingly, in 2021, astronomers reported the discovery of the first possible extragalactic planet in the Whirlpool galaxy.
Bottom line: The James Webb Space Telescope has just obtained stunning new infrared images of the famous Whirlpool galaxy, 27 million light-years from Earth. Like our galaxy, the Whirlpool galaxy is likely filled with billions of worlds of its own.
Read more: New sharp image of the Whirlpool Galaxy
Read more: The first extragalactic planet?