JWST Captures The Birth Of Stars In Stunning Detail In A Galaxy 20M Light Years Away

hero barred spiral galaxy ngc 5068 jwst miri nircam
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) captured images of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068 in spectacular fashion utilizing its MIRI and NIRCam instruments. The images were shared recently by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson during an event with students at the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland.

Images of NGC 5068, which is approximately 20 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo, are part of a repository of observations of star formation in nearby galaxies ('nearby' being relative, of course). NASA says these types of images are valuable to astronomers for a couple of reasons. First. star formation is the backbone of so many fields in astronomy. Second, Webb's observations build on other studies using other space-based telescopes, as well as ground-based observatories.

A total of 19 images of star-forming galaxies captured by JWST were combined with Hubble images of 10,000-star clusters, spectroscopic mapping of 20,000 star-forming emission nebulae from the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and observations of 12,000 dense molecular clouds identified by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). By doing this, astronomers were able to cover the electromagnetic spectrum and begin to put together the small details of star formation.

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Image taken by JWST's MIRI instrument of NGC 5068.

Webb is capable of cutting through the gas and dust that typically hides newborn stars from other observatories like Hubble and VLT. Two instruments of Webb play a vital role in being able to accomplish this, its Mid-infrared Instrument (MIRI) and Near-infrared Camera (NIRCam). It was these two instruments that were capable of piercing through the immense clouds of dust in NGC 5068 and thus capturing the processes of star formation as they occurred.

The image above was taken utilizing Webb's MIRI instrument placing the barred spiral galaxy's glowing bubbles of gas containing newly-formed star clusters in the foreground. Three asteroid trails photobomb the image, seen as tiny blue-green-red dots. It is not uncommon for asteroids to do this, being they are much closer to the telescope than the far-off target.

The image below was taken using Webb's NIRCam instrument and is filled with the galaxy's extremely large population of stars. The stars are most evident along its bright central bar. It also highlights burning red clouds of gas that are illuminated by your stars within the gas. NIRCam allows astronomers to cut through the dust and gas in order to get a closer look at stars within a galaxy like NGC 5068.

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Image taken with JWST's NIRCam instrument of NGC 5068.

NASA is hopeful that images collected by JWST like these of NGC 5068 will be able "kick-start major scientific advances with some of the first available data from Webb."
Tags:  space, NASA, Galaxy, Hubble, jwst