December 2, 2022

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Reveals Invisible Glow

During the James Webb Space Telescope Launched late last year, astronomers gave it countless missions. I say infinite because The ultimate goal This engineering marvel doesn’t just answer every question about the universe. Answering questions no human would ever think to ask.

But before we get to that mind-bending end goal, our brilliant new lens Dutifully performing tasks We gave it a shot, one of which is to pierce the veil of cosmic gas and dust to reveal the secret stellar escape that lies within. Standard optical telescopes like Hubble are almost always invisible.

Here it is, Tuesday. JWST decoded the flashing display Behind the dark curtains of space, a dusty canopy hides a pair of galaxies about 270 million light-years from Earth.

JWSD saw a bright, bright cosmic scene.

ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, L. Armus, A. Evans

What do I see?

We have two parts labeled IC 1623 A and B conflict trend through space and time. They are located in the Cetus constellation and have long intrigued scientists for a few reasons.

Perhaps most surprisingly, they are in the process of creating a supermassive black hole — a A great void With enough gravity it can warp the fabric of our universe as we know it.

But that seething den of destruction is expected to be bound by a necklace of light.

The ultra-high intensity of intergalactic IC 1623 triggered the formation of a nearby zippy star-forming region. It’s called a starburst, and it specifically, according to the European Space Agency, produces new stars at a rate 20 times greater than the Milky Way.

And This is JWST was captured.

Hubble had already given us a preliminary view of IC 1623 A and B, but as scientists had hoped from the start, astronomy’s new deal with space pierced through the cosmic veil of both. In doing so, it shows us the luminous core of this conjunction and provides humanity with a full, enchanting picture of IC 1623 rather than a central part that leaves it to our imaginations.

Here’s Hubble’s view of the merging galaxies IC 1623 A and B. It is much less bright because the central parts of these regions are obscured by dark dust.

ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, L. Armus, A. Evans

Why can JWST do what Hubble can’t?

Two words: infrared imaging.

All light emitted from deep space can be classified into a type of map called the electromagnetic spectrum. Different wavelengths of light translate to different colors in our eyes, which are located in different areas. On one side are red wavelengths and on the other are blue wavelengths.

But if you go beyond the red side of the electromagnetic spectrum, as some light actually does, you get infrared light.

Infrared light, unlike regular red light, is essentially invisible to the human eye. That means it’s invisible to instruments that act like the human eye, even powerful versions like the Hubble Space Telescope.

But infrared light is the type of light emitted by stars within most clouds of dense cosmic dust, such as the veil surrounding IC 1623. So to figure out what’s going on inside, we need an infrared-light-detecting telescope. That’s JWST.

A map of the electromagnetic spectrum showing what regions Hubble and Webb could see.

This chart illustrates the spectrum of electromagnetic energy, specifically highlighting the regions detected by NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer, and Webb Space Telescopes. Spitzer is now retired and no longer as high-tech as JWST.

NASA and J. Olmsted [STScI]

As a side note, light from stars and other phenomena that are really far away from Earth also reaches our planet as infrared light. That is why we are ready to bring you information about JWST far away The universe existed at the beginning of time, information invisible to us and the Hubble Space Telescope. More on that here.

Returning to IC 1623, “the infrared sensitivity of the web and its impressive resolution at those wavelengths allows it to see past the dust and has resulted in the spectacular image above in a combination of MIRI and NIRCam images,” explains ESA. JWST’s high-tech instruments.

Another easter egg in this image, like all JWST images, is the eight-point diffraction spikes you see in the center. (It looks like six spikes, but there are two mini-spikes traveling horizontally through the middle. They’re hard to see). All JWST images have this signature, as opposed to Hubble’s four-point version.


Here’s an outline of what JWST’s diffraction spikes look like. You’ll see these in every JWST image!

NASA, ESA, CSA, Leah Hustak (STScI), Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

Typically, these spikes are most prominent when there is a lot of light in an image, which explains why the telescope’s latest image of two galactic cores has its brightest central snowflake.

Hopefully the next time JWST focuses its lens, it will be in one of those scenes with evidence of something we never thought we’d hear.