Astronomers at the University of Oxford have captured a stunning image of the spiral galaxy NGC 628, located 32 million light-years away in the constellation Pisces. The image, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, provides an unprecedented view of the densely populated face-on spiral galaxy.
The central region of NGC 628 is particularly striking, with a light blue haze that occupies about a quarter of the view. Within this circular core, there is a bright blue area representing populations of older stars. The spiral arms, made of stars, gas, and dust, emanate from the center, rotating counterclockwise and reaching all the way to the edges of the galaxy.
The image also reveals spiny spiral arms that resemble the cross-section of a nautilus shell, ranging in color from dark to bright orange. Throughout the galaxy, additional bright blue pinpoints of light can be seen, representing stars scattered across the packed scene. The darker regions of the galaxy provide a contrast to the vibrant hues, some appearing more circular and prominent in certain areas.
Notable features in the image include a dark “bubble” to the top left of the blue core and a wider, elliptical “bubble” to the bottom right. The intricate details captured in the image provide valuable insights into the structure and composition of NGC 628, contributing to our understanding of spiral galaxies.
The collaboration between NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and the PHANGS team, along with the expertise of researchers Janice Lee and Thomas Williams, has made this extraordinary image possible. As technology continues to advance, astronomers are hopeful that more discoveries and insights into the mysteries of the universe will be revealed.