Wednesday, December 21, 2022

A Wreath of Star Formation in Galaxy NGC 7469 | James Webb Space Telescope

A Wreath of Star Formation in Galaxy NGC 7469 | James Webb Space Telescope

This image is dominated by NGC 7469, a luminous, face-on spiral galaxy approximately 90,000 light-years in diameter that lies roughly 220 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. Its companion galaxy IC 5283 is partly visible in the lower left portion of this image.

Image Description: This image shows a spiral galaxy that is dominated by a bright central region. The galaxy has blue-purple hues with orange-red regions filled with stars. Also visible is large diffraction spike, which appears as a star pattern over the central region of the galaxy. Lots of stars and galaxies fill the background scene.

This spiral galaxy has recently been studied as part of the Great Observatories All-sky LIRGs Survey (GOALS) Early Release Science program with the NASA/European Space Agency/Canadian Space Agency James Webb Space Telescope, which aims to study the physics of star formation, black hole growth, and feedback in four nearby, merging luminous infrared galaxies.

NGC 7469 is home to an active galactic nucleus (AGN), which is an extremely bright central region that is dominated by the light emitted by dust and gas as it falls into the galaxy’s central black hole. This galaxy provides astronomers with the unique opportunity to study the relationship between AGNs and starburst activity because this particular object hosts an AGN that is surrounded by a starburst ring at a distance of a mere 1,500 light-years.

A prominent feature of this image is the striking six-pointed star that perfectly aligns with the heart of NGC 7469. Unlike the galaxy, this is not a real celestial object, but an imaging artifact known as a diffraction spike, caused by the bright, unresolved AGN. Diffraction spikes are patterns produced as light bends around the sharp edges of a telescope. Webb’s primary mirror is composed of hexagonal segments that each contain edges for light to diffract against, giving six bright spikes. There are also two shorter, fainter spikes, which are created by diffraction from the vertical strut that helps support Webb’s secondary mirror.

Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)/Webb, NASA & Canadian Space Agency (CSA), L. Armus, A. S. Evans

Duration: 30 seconds

Release Date: Dec. 21, 2022

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