The Webb team has released a vivid image of the intermediate spiral galaxy IC 5332.
IC 5332 is located approximately 25 million light-years away in the constellation of Sculptor.
Also known as ESO 408-9 or LEDA 71775, the galaxy was discovered on November 19, 1897 by the American astronomer Lewis Swift.
It has a diameter of 66,000 light-years, making it about a third smaller than our own Milky Way Galaxy.
IC 5332 has a very small central bulge and open spiral arms.
It is notable for being almost perfectly face-on with respect to Earth, allowing us to admire the symmetrical sweep of its spiral arms.
IC 5332 was previously imaged by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The new image of the galaxy was captured by the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.
“MIRI is the only Webb instrument that is sensitive to the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum; Webb’s other instruments all operate in the near-infrared,” Webb astronomers said.
“One of MIRI’s most remarkable features is that it operates 33 degrees Celsius below the rest of the observatory at the frosty temperature of minus 266 degrees Celsius.”
“That means that MIRI operates in an environment only 7 degrees Celsius warmer than absolute zero, which is the lowest possible temperature according to the laws of thermodynamics.”
“MIRI requires this frigid environment in order for its highly specialised detectors to function correctly, and it has a dedicated active cooling system to ensure that its detectors are kept at the correct temperature.”
The Hubble image shows dark regions that seem to separate IC 5332’s spiral arms, whereas the Webb image shows more of a continual tangle of structures that echo the spiral arms’ shape.
“This difference is due to the presence of dusty regions in IC 5332,” the astronomers said.
“Ultraviolet and visible light are far more prone to being scattered by interstellar dust than infrared light.”
“Therefore dusty regions can be identified easily in the Hubble image as the darker regions that much of the galaxy’s ultraviolet and visible light has not been able to travel through.”
“Those same dusty regions are no longer dark in the Webb image, however, as the mid-infrared light from the galaxy has been able to pass through them.”
“Different stars are visible in the two images, which can be explained because certain stars shine brighter in the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regimes respectively.”
“The images complement one another in a remarkable way, each telling us more about IC 5332’s structure and composition.”
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