The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) team has released only a few official images, but that hasn’t stopped people from processing the raw data released by NASA. Judy Schmidt He works hard to bring us more amazing photos by JWST. Schmidt has been processing raw space data for years, and her skills are evident in these fascinating images of spiral galaxies.
Thanks to her manual work, we can estimate JWST views of three spiral galaxies – NGC628, IC5332 and NGC7496. The NGC628 and IC5332 images were created by processing data captured by the telescope’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI). Instead, NGC7496 displays a combination of MIRI data and a near-infrared camera (NIRCam).
The astonishing results reveal wisps of gas and dust in galaxies in a way that was not possible before. In fact, the remarkable nature of JWST’s capabilities is really highlighted when matched with images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. When compared, it is easy to see how much we can see when viewing infrared images.
Schmidt is also taking things a step further by creating an image of NGC7496, also called the bar galaxy, using data from JWST and Hubble. The results are an interesting mix of visible and infrared light, with new details emerging thanks to JWST. The power of JWST is also seen when looking at the NGC628, which is also known as the Phantom Galaxy. Looking at Schmidt’s manipulated image of the ghost galaxy, it’s impossible not to hypnotize the swirl of dust in the center. Hubble, who photographed the galaxy in 2007, also has a pretty picture, but in the photo, spidery tufts of dust are obscured.
All galaxies are relatively close to the Milky Way and can be easily observed. These galaxies are also part of the physics at high angular resolution in the Near Galaxies Program (PHANGS). This survey maps connections between young stars and cold molecular gas by imaging 38 galaxies.
Schmidt’s work is a fascinating look at the capabilities of the JWST and is just a taste of what is sure to be more incredible images as the telescope increases its work. The images are also confirmation that NASA’s decision to announce the initial data sets is a wise way to engage the public and allow talented people like Schmidt to use their creativity to bring new views of the universe.
If you want to see higher resolution versions of these photos, check out Schmidt’s Flickr.