This is a view of the vicinity of the center of spiral galaxy M51 (Messier 51, NGC 5194) about 27 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Canis. M51 interacts with nearby galaxy NGC 5195 (not shown in this image), also called the “Cow Galaxy”.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the dark red region indicates a distribution of warm dust particles that spread like threads within the galaxy. Red indicates infrared radiation emitted by complex particles forming at the surface of the dust, and yellow and orange indicate regions where the gas has been ionized by radiation from stars in relatively recently forming star clusters. What appear to be bright knots and dark hollows form when stellar activity has a major impact on the interstellar medium.
This image was created based on data obtained by the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Medium Infrared Observatory (MIRI) of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Since the Webb Space Telescope primarily observes infrared wavelengths Invisible to the human eye, the colors in the published images are color-coded according to the filters used during the acquisition process.(※1).
*1…In the first image, 1.15 µm and 1.5 µm are captured by NIRCam in purple, 1.87 µm and 2.0 µm in blue, 3.0 µm and 3.35 µm in green, and 4.05 µm and 4. 44 µm in yellow, and 5.6 µm captured by MIRI. Colored orange, 7.7 µm red.
Webb Space Telescope observations of M51 indicate stellar feedbacks outside the Milky Way(※2)They were made as part of a series of observations called FEAST (Feedback in Extragalactic Star Clusters), which aims to elucidate the interactions between star formation and formation. Through observations with the Webb Space Telescope, we will be able to understand the cycle of star formation and metallurgy.(※3)This is expected to deepen our understanding of how the concentration of stars in galaxies is controlled, and the formation timescales for planets and brown dwarfs (objects with intermediate properties between stars and planets).
*2: Excellent feedback. According to the European Space Agency, this term refers to the energy that is poured from a star into a star-forming environment, and is an important process that determines the rate at which stars form.
*3…a generic term for elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. It is believed that the metals are produced by nuclear fusion reactions within stars and supernova explosions, and that they increase with the change of generations of stars.
The image of M51 taken by the Webb Space Telescope was released by the European Space Agency on August 29, 2023 as the “Webb Space Telescope Image of the Month”.
- Image credit: ESA/Webb, NASA and CSA, A. Adamo (Stockholm University) and the FEAST JWST Team
- European Space Agency/Web – a feast for the eyes
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