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The University of Oxford is processing a set of highly detailed images of 19 nearby spiral galaxies from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The suite of extraordinary images will provide several new puzzle pieces for astronomers and astrophysicists around the world.

Dr Thomas Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics, led on the data processing for the latest set of images – some 18 months of work for a team of around 10 people. The James Webb Space Telescope is an international programme led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

The images are part of a long-standing project, the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) programme, which is supported by more than 150 astronomers worldwide. These latest images from JWST’s near- and mid-infrared spectrographs join the programme’s vast body of data gained from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. This means that researchers now have ground-based and space-based observation data in ultraviolet, visible, and radio light data as well as the near- and mid-infrared imagery.

Dr Thomas Williams said,

‘The amount of detail in these images is overwhelming – in a good way,’ he explained. ‘It means that we may be able to fill in more of the gaps in our knowledge about the structure and evolution of galaxies, star formation, the life-cycle of stars and so much more.’

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