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‘Mind-blowing’ new images reveal 19 galaxies ‘down to the smallest scales ever observed’

The James Webb Space Telescope has provided breathtaking views of 19 spiral galaxies, offering astronomers an unparalleled glimpse into their intricate structures and the vast number of stars they contain.

Using its unique capability to observe in various wavelengths of infrared light, including near-infrared and mid-infrared, Webb has captured detailed images of the stars, gas, and dust within each galaxy.

Spiral galaxies, like those depicted in the images, are prevalent throughout the universe, constituting approximately 60% of all galaxies. Our own Milky Way galaxy is a prime example of a spiral galaxy, with our solar system nestled within one of its spiral arms. By studying these galaxies, astronomers aim to gain valuable insights into the processes of star formation and galaxy evolution.

In the images, each galaxy appears face-on, revealing spiral arms adorned with clusters of stars. At the core of each galaxy lie either ancient star clusters or supermassive black holes.

These observations were part of the PHANGS project, a collaborative effort involving over 100 astronomers worldwide. The project combines data from various telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories, to comprehensively study nearby galaxies.

Webb’s infrared observations have unveiled intricate details such as bubbles and filaments, providing valuable insights into the complex process of star formation within these galaxies. The Near-Infrared Camera captured millions of stars clustered together, while the Mid-Infrared Instrument highlighted glowing dust and young stars embedded within gas clouds.

Additionally, the images revealed large spherical voids sculpted by stellar explosions, offering further insights into the dynamics of galactic gas and dust.

Astronomers believe that galaxies form from the inside out, with star formation initiating at the center and gradually spreading outward. Younger stars are typically found farther from the galactic center, while older stars cluster near the core. Some galaxies exhibit signs of active supermassive black holes or intense star clusters at their centers.

The abundance of stars captured by Webb’s images will enable astronomers to construct a more comprehensive understanding of stellar evolution and the life cycles of galaxies.

In summary, these groundbreaking observations represent a significant milestone in humanity’s quest to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos.

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