(ORDO NEWS) — A December image by James Webb captures the spiral galaxy NGC 7469, located about 220 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. Its diameter is about 90,000 light years.
NGC 7469 is a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus (AGN). It is an extremely bright central region dominated by light emitted by dust and gas falling into the galaxy’s central black hole.
This galaxy provides astronomers with a unique opportunity to study the relationship between AGN and star formation activity because this particular object contains an AGN that is surrounded by a star formation ring only 1500 light-years away.
The compactness of this system and the presence of a large amount of dust make it difficult to study this relationship in the infrared range.
However, with Webb, astronomers can explore the galaxy’s stellar ring, the central AGN, and the gas and dust in between.
Using Webb’s MIRI, NIRCam and NIRSpec instruments to image and spectra NGC 7469, the GOALS team obtained new data on the object.
Scientists have found young star-forming clusters, as well as pockets of very warm, turbulent molecular gas and direct evidence of the destruction of small dust particles within a few hundred light-years of the core – evidence that AGN is affecting the surrounding interstellar medium.
In addition, highly ionized, diffuse atomic gas appears to be escaping from the core at about 6.4 million kilometers per hour.
It is part of a galactic stream that was previously identified from Earth and has now been detected by Webb. As the analysis of the datasets is still ongoing, new mysteries in this area are sure to be uncovered.
A prominent feature of this image is a bright six-pointed star that aligns with the center of NGC 7469. Unlike a galaxy, this is not a real celestial object, but an image artifact, a diffraction burst.
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