Scientist uses James Webb Space Telescope data to create ‘purple swirl’ image of distant galaxy

The stunning image of spiral galaxy NGC 628 captured by the James Webb Space Telescope looks like something out of a science fiction movie and could help scientists understand the behavior of dust in galaxies.

Gabriel Brammer of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark shared the photo on Twitter. According to New Scientist, the image is a composite of three sets of data captured by Webb at three different wavelengths. Brammer, who is not part of Webb’s team, downloaded the data and translated each set of infrared data into the red, green, and blue spectra of light and combined them to produce this image.

The galaxy has been imaged in visible light in the past by other telescopes, including the Hubble, and it even appears similar to the Milky Way when viewed from above galactic plane. Brammer told New Scientist that this image represents what the night sky would look like if our eyes were to see mid-infrared wavelengths.

NGC 628 gets its purple appearance in the image created by Brammer due to the formation of dust clouds, which are mostly made up of large molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). By the way, PAHs are a large component of cigarette smoke.

These particles only reflect specific wavelengths of light. When Brammer mapped the wavelength data to red, green, and blue, there was very little green. The combination of a large amount of red and blue light gave the galaxy the purple color that can be seen in the image.

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