X-ray and Infrared Symphony of Chandra and Webb Unveiling the Secrets of Galaxies and Nebulae

Credits: X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/SAO, XMM: ESA/XMM-Newton; IR: JWST: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI, Spitzer: NASA/JPL/CalTech; Optical: Hubble: NASA/ESA/STScI, ESO; Image Processing: L. Frattare, J. Major, and K. Arcand

May 24, 2023

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and James Webb Space Telescope have delivered breathtaking composite images showcasing the beauty of two galaxies, a nebula, and a star cluster. These images, which combine X-rays from Chandra and infrared data from Webb, provide a mesmerizing glimpse into the hidden wonders of the universe.

Invisible to the unaided eye, the X-rays captured by Chandra and the infrared data obtained by Webb are transformed into vibrant colors that humans can perceive. To create these stunning composite images, NASA also incorporated data from other powerful telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the retired Spitzer Space Telescope, the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, and the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope.

Let's explore the four composite images, each revealing a different cosmic spectacle:

Star cluster NGC 346:

Situated in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy located approximately 200,000 light-years from Earth, NGC 346 is a star cluster that serves as a rich source of gas and dust for the formation of stars and planets. Webb's infrared data showcases plumes and arcs of gas and dust, while Chandra's X-ray image reveals the remnants of a supernova explosion in the form of a purple cloud on the left. Additionally, Chandra's data uncovers young, hot, and massive stars emitting powerful winds. Hubble and Spitzer data, along with support from XMM-Newton and ESO's New Technology Telescope, enhance the overall understanding of NGC 346's intricate features. (X-ray: purple and blue; infrared/optical: red, green, blue)

Spiral galaxy NGC 1672:

NGC 1672 is classified as a "barred" spiral galaxy, featuring a straight band of stars encircling its core. Unlike other spirals, whose arms twist all the way to their core, NGC 1672's arms remain primarily concentrated in this central band. Chandra's data exposes compact objects such as neutron stars or black holes drawing material from companion stars, as well as the remnants of exploded stars. Hubble's optical data complements the image by highlighting dust and gas within the spiral arms, while Webb's infrared data adds further details to these structures. (X-ray: purple; optical: red, green, blue; infrared: red, green, blue).

M16 (Eagle Nebula):

Also known as the "Pillars of Creation," Messier 16, or the Eagle Nebula, presents a captivating sight in the night sky. Webb's image showcases the dark columns of gas and dust enveloping the young stars still in the process of formation. Chandra's X-ray sources, resembling dots, represent young stars emitting copious amounts of X-rays. The combination of these data sets provides a comprehensive view of this awe-inspiring nebula. (X-ray: red, blue; infrared: red, green, blue)

Messier 74 (M74):

Referred to as the Phantom Galaxy due to its relatively dim appearance, Messier 74 is a face-on spiral galaxy resembling our Milky Way. Positioned approximately 32 million light-years away, M74 reveals its intricate structure in this composite image. Webb's infrared data outlines gas and dust, while Chandra's X-ray data highlights high-energy activity from stars. Hubble's optical data adds more stars and dust along the dust lanes, completing the visual narrative. (X-ray: purple; optical: orange, cyan, blue; infrared: green, yellow, red, magenta)

Managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the Chandra program collaborates with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center for science operations and flight operations. On the other hand, the James Webb Space Telescope stands as the world's leading space science observatory, unraveling mysteries within our solar system and venturing into the realms of distant worlds and the origins of the universe. This international program, led by NASA in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency, promises to deepen our understanding of the cosmos.

Source - NASA