James Webb Telescope photos

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The recently released images of the James Webb Telescope have allowed an ASU team of Astronomers to identify and trace light in a bright elliptical galaxy. The significance of these new photos and the discovery is it allows the scientists to understand the effects of interstellar dust in the spiral galaxy.

Rogier Windhorst, Astronomer and ASU Regent Professor talks about this discovery.

“We have a spiral galaxy like our own in the foreground, about 100,000 light years across, and then an elliptical galaxy much more smooth, like a flashlight, behind it,” Windhorst said.

These galaxies are seven hundred million light years away.

“They might have collided, although they’re far enough apart that we don’t think they have,” Windhorst said, touching on the fact that they are 40 to 50 million light years across.

“The composition of dust, we think is the same throughout the universe, but there’s not the same amounts everywhere. It’s the same periodic system, but there could be more or less in total. And depending on how much dust there is in each of these spiral arms, that seeds the formation of new stars and planets. And that’s what we hope to learn. Where would we have formed and what kind of material did it take to form our solar system?” Windhorst said.

The more dust there is, the more likely planets are formed. The dust is all made out of materials in the periodic system, such as silicon, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, etc. We try to learn from our own cosmic history, Windhorst said.

The Webb telescope played a huge role in this, as did the Hubble.

“The Hubble telescope is used as a precursor and also provided blue wave lengths and optical wave lengths,” Windhorst said.

Webb is an infrared telescope and looks at light that is red, which Hubble cannot see, and vice versa, Webb cannot see the blue, according to Windhorst.

“Putting them together, you get a really complete picture of what’s out there,” Windhorst said.

Rogier Windhorst, Astronomer and ASU Regent Professor

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