Shopping Cart

Webb Peers Behind the Bars of NGC 5068

An intricate tapestry of dust and vibrant star clusters is strewn across this image from the James Webb Space Telescope. These radiant patterns of gas and stars belong to the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068, whose bright central bar can be seen in the upper left corner of this image. This composite picture is derived from data collected by two of Webb’s instruments. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson disclosed the image during an event with students at the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland.

NGC 5068, located approximately 20 million light-years from Earth within the constellation Virgo, exhibits its luminous, star-creating regions in this image. This picture is part of an initiative to amass an astronomical compendium of observations focused on star formation in proximate galaxies. Other notable contributions to this collection include images of IC 5332 and M74. These observations hold a special significance for astronomers, firstly because star formation is foundational to numerous fields in astronomy, ranging from the physics of diffuse interstellar plasma to the evolution of entire galaxies. Astronomers aim to catalyze significant scientific breakthroughs by observing star creation processes in nearby galaxies, using some of the earliest data obtained from Webb.

The second reason is that Webb's observations augment previous studies conducted using the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories. Webb has gathered images of 19 local star-forming galaxies, which can be combined with Hubble's images of 10,000 star clusters, the Very Large Telescope's spectroscopic maps of 20,000 star-forming emission nebulae, and observations of 12,000 dark, dense molecular clouds as identified by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Spanning the entire electromagnetic spectrum, these observations present astronomers with an unprecedented chance to piece together the intricate details of star formation.

Equipped with the capacity to penetrate the gas and dust veil that cloaks newly formed stars, Webb is exceptionally adept at examining the mechanisms that drive star formation. Stars and planetary systems come into being amid colossal swirling clouds of gas and dust, which are impenetrable to visible-light observatories like Hubble or the VLT. Webb's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), with their proficiency in infrared wavelength observation, were able to pierce through the massive dust clouds of NGC 5068, revealing the unfolding star formation processes. This image amalgamates the capabilities of these two instruments, offering a truly unique perspective on the composition of NGC 5068.
Click here to find out more!