Pic of the Week: Spiral Galaxy LEDA 2046648

Image (Credit): Spiral glaxy LEDA 2046648 as captured by the JSWT. (ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Martel)

This week’s image is from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It shows a spiral galaxy that appears much like our own (bottom center), though this one is a billion light-years away. Do occupants of that galaxy also see us? Good luck communicating when it will take 2 billion years to receive a response to a message you just sent out.

Here is the full story from the European Space Agency (ESA), which posted this as its Picture of the Month just last month:

A crowded field of galaxies throngs this Picture of the Month from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, along with bright stars crowned with Webb’s signature six-pointed diffraction spikes. The large spiral galaxy at the base of this image is accompanied by a profusion of smaller, more distant galaxies which range from fully-fledged spirals to mere bright smudges. Named LEDA 2046648, it is situated a little over a billion light-years from Earth, in the constellation Hercules.

One of Webb’s principle science goals is to observe distant galaxies in the early universe to understand the details of their formation, evolution, and composition. Webb’s keen infrared vision helps the telescope peer back in time, as the light from these distant galaxies is redshifted towards infrared wavelengths. Comparing these systems with galaxies in the local universe will help astronomers understand how galaxies grew to form the structure we see today. Webb will also probe the chemical composition of thousands of galaxies to shed light on how heavy elements were formed and built up as galaxies evolved.