NASA's Webb Explores Extreme Starburst Galaxy  

Scientists surveyed Messier 82 using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. This tiny galaxy in Ursa Major, 12 million light-years away, is a hotbed of star creation. M82 produces new stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way.  

The team, led by Alberto Bolatto at the University of Maryland, College Park, pointed Webb's NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) sensor toward the starburst galaxy's center to study the physical conditions that create new stars.  

Bolatto, the study's principal author, said M82 has been observed extensively since it is the prototypical starburst galaxy. NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes have seen this object. Webb's size and resolution allow us to glimpse this star-forming galaxy in exquisite, fresh detail.”  

Left is NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's 2006 image of starburst galaxy M82. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) sensor has caught the galaxy's core's small box. Webb saw polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon emission, which shaped the cosmic wind, as red filaments.  

The Hubble image colors light at.814 microns red,.658 red-orange,.555 green, and.435 blue (filters F814W, F658N, F555W, and F435W). Light at 3.35 microns is red, 2.50 is green, and 1.64 is blue in the Webb image (filters F335M, F250M, and F164N). NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, A. Bolatto University of Maryland 

Star creation remains mysterious due to dust and gas veils that obscure it. Webb's infrared vision helps him navigate these hazy conditions. Additionally, NIRCam photos of the starburst's center were taken in an instrument mode that prevented the brilliant source from overwhelming the detector.  

This infrared picture shows dark brown tendrils of thick dust threading M82's bright white core, but Webb's NIRCam has revealed new detail. Small green specks indicate concentrated iron, most of which are supernova leftovers, closer to the center. The radiation from a nearby young star illuminates molecular hydrogen in crimson spots.  

“This image shows the power of Webb,” said Rebecca Levy, second author of the study at UA Tucson. “Every white dot in this image is a star or star cluster. We can differentiate all of these small point sources, allowing us to count all the star clusters in this galaxy.”  

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