Science

Spectacular image of the heart of the phantom galaxy demonstrates Webb’s power

Heart of the Phantom Galaxy
Written by admin

Heart of the Phantom Galaxy

This James Webb Space Telescope image shows the heart of M74, also known as the Phantom Galaxy. Webb’s keen eye has revealed faint filaments of gas and dust in the grandiose spiral arms that spiral outward from the center of this image. A lack of gas in the core region also provides an unobstructed view of the nuclear star cluster at the galaxy’s center. Image credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST team

Incredible new images of spectacular phantom galaxy M74 demonstrate the power of space observatories working together at multiple wavelengths. In this case, data from the[{” attribute=””>James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope complement each other to provide a comprehensive view of the galaxy.

The Phantom Galaxy is located approximately 32 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pisces. It lies almost face-on to Earth. This, coupled with its well-defined spiral arms, makes it a favorite target for astronomers studying the origin and structure of galactic spirals.


New images of phantom galaxy M74 demonstrate the power of space observatories working together at multiple wavelengths. This video shows the Hubble Space Telescope’s view of the galaxy, showing the older, redder stars toward the center, the younger and bluer stars in their spiral arms, to the most active star formation in the red bubbles of the H II regions. The James Webb Space Telescope image is strikingly different, instead highlighting the masses of gas and dust in the galaxy’s arms and the dense star cluster at its core. The combined image of M74 merges these two for a truly unique “magnificent design” look at this spiral galaxy.

M74 is a special class of spiral galaxy known as the “great design spiral”. This means its spiral arms stand out and are well defined, in contrast to the mottled and ragged structure seen in some spiral galaxies.

Webb’s keen eye has revealed wisps of gas and dust in M74’s grandiose spiral arms, winding outward from center. A lack of gas in the core region also provides an unobstructed view of the nuclear star cluster at the galaxy’s center.

Phantom galaxy across the spectrum

M74 shines at its brightest in this combined optical and mid-infrared image, which includes data from both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.
With Hubble’s venerable Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Webb’s powerful Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) capturing a range of wavelengths, this new image has remarkable depth. The red colors mark dust threaded through the galaxy’s arms, lighter oranges are areas of hotter dust. The young stars in the arms and core are highlighted in blue. Heavier, older stars toward the galaxy’s center are shown in cyan and green, projecting an eerie glow from the phantom galaxy’s core. Star formation bubbles are also visible in pink above the arms. Such a variety of galactic features is rarely seen in a single image.
Scientists combine data from telescopes working across the electromagnetic spectrum to truly understand astronomical objects. In this way, the Hubble and Webb data complement each other for a comprehensive picture of the spectacular M74 galaxy.
Image credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST team; ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Chandar Acknowledgments: J. Schmidt

Webb peered into M74 with his Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) to learn more about the earliest stages of star formation in the local Universe. These observations are part of a larger effort by the international PHANGS collaboration to map 19 nearby star-forming galaxies in the infrared. These galaxies have already been observed with the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories.

The addition of crystal-clear Webb observations at longer wavelengths will allow astronomers to pinpoint star-forming regions in galaxies, accurately measure the mass and age of star clusters, and gain insight into the nature of the small dust grains floating in interstellar space.


This James Webb Space Telescope image shows the heart of M74, also known as the Phantom Galaxy. Webb’s keen eye has revealed faint filaments of gas and dust in the grandiose spiral arms that spiral outward from the center of this image. A lack of gas in the core region also provides an unobstructed view of the nuclear star cluster at the galaxy’s center. M74 is a special class of spiral galaxies known as “grand design spirals,” meaning that its spiral arms stand out and are well defined, in contrast to the mottled and ragged structure seen in some spiral galaxies.

Hubble observations of M74 have discovered particularly bright regions of star formation known as HII regions. Hubble’s sharp vision at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths complements Webb’s unprecedented sensitivity at infrared wavelengths, as do observations from ground-based radio telescopes like the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA.

By combining data from telescopes operating around the world electromagnetic spectrumscientists can gain better insight into astronomical objects than by using a single observatory – even one as powerful as Webb!

Multi-observatory views from M74

New images of phantom galaxy M74 demonstrate the power of space observatories working together at multiple wavelengths.
On the left, the Hubble Space Telescope’s view of the galaxy ranges from the older, redder stars toward the center, through younger and bluer stars in their spiral arms, to the most active star formation in the red bubbles of the H II regions. On the right, the James Webb Space Telescope image is strikingly different, instead highlighting the masses of gas and dust in the galaxy’s arms and the dense star cluster at its core. The combined image at center merges these two for a truly unique look at this “greatly designed” spiral galaxy.
Image credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST team; ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Chandar Acknowledgments: J. Schmidt

About Webb

The James Webb Space Telescope is that world’s leading observatory for space science. Web will Solve puzzles in our solar system, peer into distant worlds around other stars and explore the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by[{” attribute=””>NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. The major contributions of ESA to the mission are: the NIRSpec instrument; the MIRI instrument optical bench assembly; the provision of the launch services; and personnel to support mission operations. In return for these contributions, European scientists will get a minimum share of 15% of the total observing time, like for the Hubble Space Telescope.


M74 shines at its brightest in this combined optical and mid-infrared image, which includes data from both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. With Hubble’s venerable Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Webb’s powerful Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) capturing a range of wavelengths, this new image has remarkable depth. The red colors mark dust threaded through the galaxy’s arms, lighter oranges are areas of hotter dust. The young stars in the arms and core are highlighted in blue. Heavier, older stars toward the galaxy’s center are shown in cyan and green, projecting an eerie glow from the phantom galaxy’s core. Star formation bubbles are also visible in pink above the arms. Such a variety of galactic features is rarely seen in a single image.

MIRI was contributed by ESA and NASA, with the instrument being designed and built in partnership with a consortium of nationally funded European institutes (the MIRI European Consortium). JPL and the University of Arizona.

About the author

admin

Leave a Comment