When the James Webb Space Telescope joins forces with the Hubble Space Telescope, it can help astronomers capture more detailed pictures of the universe. NASA recently shared a combination of images of a galaxy called VV 191, which can further understand how cosmic dust changes the brightness and color of background objects by tracking the distribution of dust.
The VV 191 assemblage contains an elliptical galaxy (pictured on the left) and a spiral galaxy (pictured on the right) about 700 million light-years from Earth, but the elliptical galaxy is actually a bit further away than the spiral galaxy. Data from the Webb telescope shows that most of the light in the image comes from elliptical galaxies, which not only illuminate dust in spiral galaxies, but also act as a gravitational field that creates a gravitational lensing effect that allows astronomers to discover a distant galaxy never seen before.
In the picture below, a faint red arc can be seen from the upper left (10 o’clock direction) of the white elliptical galaxy on the left. In fact, it is a very distant galaxy. When the light passes through the elliptical galaxy, it is “bent and magnified” by the gravitational field, causing it to curve in an arc. It reappears in the figure in the form of a red dot on the lower right (4 o’clock).
▲ Webb Telescope data newly revealed a distant galaxy magnified by the gravitational lensing effect of an elliptical galaxy. (Source: Arizona State University)
The galaxy was not identified in Hubble data, but clearly appeared in Webb’s near-infrared observations, suggesting that the collaboration of two powerful space telescopes could yield more complete information.
In addition, Webb’s near-infrared data also detailed the dusty arms of the spiral system, making it appear to overlap the bright elliptical galaxy’s central bulge on the left. Knowing the location of dust in galaxies is important because dust can change the brightness and color of galaxies in images, and it can also affect the formation of new stars and planets.
There’s still a lot to explore in this image, like spiral galaxies scattered across the background of various sizes and colors, and more analysis must be put into their distances and how much dust they contain.
The related paper has not been peer-reviewed.
(Source of the first image: European Space Agency)
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