James Webb Telescope reveals a star studded cosmic wreath in NGC 7469

NGC 7469, a bright, face-on spiral galaxy with a diameter of around 90 000 light-years and a distance of about 220 million light-years from Earth, was captured in this image by the James Webb telescope on December 21, 2022. In the lower-left corner of this view, its neighbor galaxy IC 5283 may be seen in part.

Credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, L. Armus, A. S. Evans.

December 21, 2022

Galaxy NGC 7469 is a type 1.2 Seyfert galaxy located approximately 220 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. It was discovered in 1885 by the astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard, and is one of the closest known active galactic nuclei (AGN) to Earth. One of the most interesting aspects of NGC 7469 is its active galactic nucleus, or AGN. An AGN is a region at the center of a galaxy that is much more luminous than the rest of the galaxy, and is thought to be powered by a supermassive black hole. In the case of NGC 7469, the AGN is thought to be powered by a black hole with a mass of approximately 100 million solar masses.

The presence of an AGN in NGC 7469 is indicated by the presence of strong emission lines in the galaxy's spectrum, which are produced when high-energy particles and photons are emitted from the AGN. These emission lines are often used as a key diagnostic tool for identifying AGN in distant galaxies.

In addition to its AGN, NGC 7469 is also notable for its starburst activity, which is characterized by a high rate of star formation. This activity is thought to be driven by the interactions between NGC 7469 and its companion galaxy, NGC 7469A. The two galaxies are thought to be in the early stages of merging, and the resulting gravitational interactions are thought to be triggering the intense star formation activity in NGC 7469.

Despite its distance from Earth, NGC 7469 has been the subject of numerous studies due to its proximity and the fact that it is one of the brightest AGN in the sky. In the 1990s, it was the target of a multi-wavelength campaign known as the "Key Project on Active Galactic Nuclei," which used a variety of telescopes to study the galaxy in detail.

Overall, NGC 7469 is a fascinating galaxy that continues to be studied by astronomers due to its active galactic nucleus and intense starburst activity. Its close proximity to Earth and bright AGN make it an ideal target for further study, and it is likely that we will continue to learn more about this intriguing galaxy in the future.

The Great Observatories All-sky LIRGs Survey (GOALS) team has learned a lot about NGC 7469 by using Webb's MIRI, NIRCam, and NIRspec equipment to acquire images and spectra of the object in unparalleled detail. This includes pockets of extremely warm, turbulent molecular gas, very immature star-forming clusters that have never been observed previously, and concrete proof that minuscule dust grains were destroyed within a few hundred light-years of the AGN's nucleus. Additionally, highly ionized, diffuse atomic gas appears to be leaving the nucleus at a speed of around 6.4 million kilometers per hour as a component of a galactic outflow that has been known about but is now exposed in amazing clarity by Webb. Additional details about this nearby AGN and starburst laboratory are anticipated to come to light as the rich Webb datasets are analyzed.

The James Webb Telescope is one of the most important observatories for space science in the world. Webb will investigate the mystifying architecture and origins of our cosmos and our part in it while also looking beyond our solar system to faraway planets surrounding other stars. The European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency are partners in the international Webb program, which is run by NASA.

Source - ESA