Webb and Hubble capture stunning image of the heart of the Phantom Galaxy

The veteran and the new kid on the block teamed up to create an impressive image of the Phantom Galaxy.

The European Space Agency released a new photo Monday that captures the heart of Messier 74, located 32 million light-years away in the constellation Pisces. It is a view that combines the Hubble Space Telescopestrong vision in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths with the James Webb Space TelescopeIts unprecedented sensitivity to infrared wavelengths.

“By combining data from telescopes operating across the electromagnetic spectrum, scientists can gain greater insight into astronomical objects than using a single observatory – even one as powerful as Webb,” the space agency said.

M74 shines at its brightest in this combined optical/mid-infrared image, with data from both the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.  / Credit: European Space Agency

M74 shines at its brightest in this combined optical/mid-infrared image, with data from both the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. / Credit: European Space Agency

M74 consists of about 100 billion stars and two symmetrical ‘arms’. It is in a subcategory of spiral galaxies known as a “major spiral design”, meaning it has prominent and well-defined arms, while some other galaxies are not so clear.

Its characteristics make it a “favourite target” for astronomers, the space agency says.

Started in 1990, Hubble has spent decades beaming stunning images back to Earth, exponentially expanding our understanding of the universe. The Webb Telescope, the most expensive scientific probe ever built, launched just this year, with the aim of studying the origin of the universe.

Webb has already beamed back the more detailed images of space seen to date, and scientists are eager to combine its findings with previous revelations to continue piecing together the history of our universe.

Webb’s superior technology beautifully reveals the gas and dust spiraling out from M74’s heart. The agency said the image also shows a clear view of the nuclear star cluster at the center, thanks to the lack of gas in the region.

ESA highlighted the images captured by each telescope on its own — as well as the power of their combination. Dust in the image is colored red, young stars are highlighted in blue, and older stars are yellow, characterized by an “eerie green glow” when the colors combine.

On the left, the Hubble Space Telescope's view of the galaxy.  On the right, the James Webb Space Telescope image is strikingly different.  The combined image in the center merges these two together for a really unique look to this one

On the left, the Hubble Space Telescope’s view of the galaxy. On the right, the James Webb Space Telescope image is strikingly different. The combined image in the center merges these two together for a really unique look to this one

Webb captured the galaxy using his Mid-Infrared Instrument in his effort to study the early stages of star formation. It is part of a larger collaborative effort to document 19 nearby star-forming galaxies that have already been studied using both Hubble and observatories on Earth.

“Adding Webb crystal observations at longer wavelengths will allow astronomers to pinpoint star-forming regions in galaxies, precisely measure the masses and ages of star clusters, and gain insights into the nature of tiny dust grains drifting through interstellar space.” “, the agency reported.

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