James Webb telescope snaps mesmerizing view of ‘Phantom Galaxy’ spirals

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has snapped a dramatic new image of a spiral galaxy that looks like a celestial seashell crafted from blue and pink gossamer filaments of gas.

The galaxycalled M74, resembles the seashell of a nautilus, whose spiral dimensions are thought to obey the Fibonacci sequence. Also known as the Phantom Galaxy, M74 is located about 32 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces. M74 is known as a “grand design spiral” because of its prominent and well-defined spiral arms. It’s also directly in Earth’s line of sight, which makes the galaxy a popular target for astronomers studying the origin and structure of galactic spirals.

“Webb’s sharp vision has revealed delicate filaments of gas and dust in the grandiose spiral arms which wind outwards from the center of this image,” European Space Agency (ESA) representatives said in a statement (opens in new tab). “A lack of gas in the nuclear region also provides an unobscured view of the nuclear star cluster at the galaxy’s center.”

The Phantom Galaxy as seen in multiple wavelengths by the Hubble Space Telescope (left) and the James Webb Space Telescope (right), with a combined image at the center. (Image credit: ESA / Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team; ESA / Hubble & NASA, R. Chandar. Acknowledgment: J. Schmidt)

The image comes from JWST’s Mid-Infrared Instrument, which is sensitive to light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.