Pair of galaxies shine in new image from Webb and Hubble telescopes

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When astronomers combine the observing powers of the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, they capture more detailed portraits of the cosmos.

A new image showing a galactic pair, shared by NASA on Wednesday, is the startling result of using data from the two space observatories.

The telescopes each contributed observations at different wavelengths of light. Webb can detect infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, while Hubble has the ability to observe both galaxies in visible light as well as ultraviolet light. The duo of the elliptical galaxy and the spiral galaxy is known as VV 191, and it is located approximately 700 million light-years from Earth.

“We got more than we bargained for by combining data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope!” wrote interdisciplinary scientist Webb and Professor Regents of Arizona State University Roger Windhorst for NASA’s Webb Blog.

“The new data from Webb allowed us to trace the light emitted by the bright white elliptical galaxy, on the left, through the winding spiral galaxy on the right – and to identify the effects of interstellar dust in the spiral galaxy. …Webb’s near-infrared data also shows us the galaxy’s longer, extremely dusty spiral arms in much greater detail, making the arms appear to overlap with the central bulge of the bright white elliptical galaxy on the left.

The image is one of the first results of the observation program called the Extragalactic areas of choice for reionization and lensing science, or PEARLS, via the Webb Telescope, which has not yet gone through the peer review process. The study was submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

Scientists selected the galactic pair from nearly 2,000 candidates identified by the Galaxy Zoo’s citizen science volunteers. These small galaxies, which seem very close to each other, do not interact with each other, but they allow researchers to trace and compare galactic dust.

“Understanding where dust is present in galaxies is important because dust changes the brightness and colors that appear in images of galaxies,” Windhorst wrote. “Dust grains are partly responsible for the formation of new stars and planets, so we are still looking to identify their presence for further study.”

But a closer look at this galactic pair isn’t the only celestial wonder revealed by this composite image. Other galaxies are also visible behind the pair, and one of these bright spots led to a second finding in the new image. This phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, occurs when galaxies in the foreground act as a magnifying glass for objects behind them.

Scientists used the same technique to The first image of Webb released in July. The space telescope “provided the deepest, sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date,” according to NASA.

Above the white elliptical galaxy to the left is a faint red arc, which is actually a very distant galaxy. The gravity of the elliptical galaxy in the foreground has distorted the light of the galaxy farther away. Distorting the distant galaxy also causes it to reappear as a red dot in the lower right of the elliptical galaxy.

Images of the distant galaxy are so faint they were not recognized in Hubble data, but they show up clearly in Webb’s near-infrared observation.

“Simulations of gravitationally lensed galaxies like this help us reconstruct the mass of each star, as well as the amount of dark matter at the core of that galaxy,” Windhorst wrote.

Beyond the information astronomers are gleaning about VV 191, the background of this Webb image hints at other deeper mysteries in the universe that have yet to be revealed, he added. . “Two unequal spirals in the upper left of the elliptical galaxy have similar apparent sizes, but appear in very different colors. One is probably very dusty and the other very distant, but we – or other astronomers – must get data called spectra to determine which is which.

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