The James Webb Space Telescope has captured an image of the grand-design spiral galaxy, the mighty Whirlpool Galaxy. The image shows the galaxy's graceful winding arms, which are made up of filamentary warm dust and ionised gas. It also shows the effects of stellar feedback, which has created a complex network of bright knots and cavernous black bubbles.
The amount of science that Webb is spitting out is fantastic. This is brand new science! I'll be definitely making a new episode of Space Ponder with this new data, speficially Space Ponder's wee series called Space Photograph of the Day where we explore astrophotography, zooming into the high resolution images and pondering them.
The Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51, is located about 27 million light-years away from Earth and is trapped in a tumultuous relationship with its near neighbour, the dwarf galaxy NGC 5195. The gravitational influence of NGC 5195 is thought to be partially responsible for the stately nature of M51's spiral arms.
The image of M51 is a composite image that integrates data from Webb's Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI). The NIRCam data reveals the warm dust in the galaxy, while the MIRI data reveals the ionised gas.
The image of M51 is a stunning new view of this iconic galaxy. It provides new insights into the formation and evolution of spiral galaxies.
We can view the two instruments used seperately as the image above combines the NIRCam and Miri. This one here shows soley the NIRICam, the Near-InfraRed Camera. Below it shows soley the MIRI instrument.
Again, the new data is absolutely fantastic. To think Webb is still in its infancy is mind blowing. Stay tuned for the upcoming episode.