This image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope shows the elegant spiraling arms of the large spiral galaxy M51. Grand-design spiral galaxies, as opposed to the assortment of bizarre and magnificent spiral galaxies, have noticeable, well-developed spiral arms, such as those shown in this image. This galactic portrait was created using a composite image that used information from Webb’s MIRI and NIRCam near-infrared cameras.
The filamentary heated dust that permeates the galaxy’s medium may be seen in this image’s dark red patches. While orange and yellow hues reveal the regions of ionized gas by the recently formed star clusters, red regions display the reprocessed light from complex molecules building on dust grains. The medium of the galaxy is dramatically altered by stellar feedback, which also produces a complicated web of luminous knots and vast black bubbles.
M51, also known as NGC 5194, is located in the constellation Canes Venatici, around 27 million light-years from Earth. It has a turbulent relationship with its nearby neighbor, the dwarf galaxy NGC 5195. These two galaxies’ interaction has made their galactic neighbors one of the more extensively researched galaxy pairings in the night sky. The stately form of the galaxy’s large and unmistakable spiral arms is assumed to be in part due to the gravitational effect of M51’s smaller companion. You may look through past Hubble Space Telescope observations of M51 here to learn more about this quarreling pair of galactic neighbors.
A group of observations collectively known as Feedback in Emerging Extragalactic Star Clusters, or FEAST, includes this Webb image of M51. The goal of the FEAST observations was to provide insight into the interactions between stellar feedback and star formation in systems outside of the Milky Way galaxy. A key factor in determining the rates at which stars originate is a process known as stellar feedback, which refers to the energy that stars release into the environments where they are formed. Building precise, all-encompassing models of star formation requires a thorough understanding of stellar feedback.
The FEAST observations are designed to find and investigate star nurseries in galaxies other than the Milky Way. Prior to the launch of Webb, other observatories, including the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile and Hubble, have provided us with a glimpse of star formation, either at the beginning (tracing the dense gas and dust clouds where stars will form) or after the stars have destroyed their natal gas and dust clouds with their energy. New insights into the infancy of star formation, stellar light, and the energy reprocessing of gas and dust are being provided by Webb. For the first time, researchers are observing star clusters erupting from their parent clouds in galaxies outside of our local neighborhood. They will be able to determine how long it takes for these stars to clean up their gas and poison it with newly produced metals (these time scales vary from galaxy to galaxy). By investigating these processes, we can learn more about how galaxies control the star formation cycle, metal enrichment, and the development of planets and brown dwarfs. There is no longer any gas or dust in the newly born stars to support the formation of planets.