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      5 Min Read Webb Finds Evidence for Neutron Star at Heart of Young Supernova Remnant
      The James Webb Space Telescope has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star. Credits:
      NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, C. Fransson (Stockholm University), M. Matsuura (Cardiff University), M. J. Barlow (University College London), P. J. Kavanagh (Maynooth University), J. Larsson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has found the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a recently observed supernova. The supernova, known as SN 1987A, was a core-collapse supernova, meaning the compacted remains at its core formed either a neutron star or a black hole. Evidence for such a compact object has long been sought, and while indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star has previously been found, this is the first time that the effects of high-energy emission from the probable young neutron star have been detected.
      Supernovae – the explosive final death throes of some massive stars – blast out within hours, and the brightness of the explosion peaks within a few months. The remains of the exploding star will continue to evolve at a rapid rate over the following decades, offering a rare opportunity for astronomers to study a key astronomical process in real time.
      Supernova 1987A
      The supernova SN 1987A occurred 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was first observed on Earth in February 1987, and its brightness peaked in May of that year. It was the first supernova that could be seen with the naked eye since Kepler’s Supernova was observed in 1604.
      About two hours prior to the first visible-light observation of SN 1987A, three observatories around the world detected a burst of neutrinos lasting only a few seconds. The two different types of observations were linked to the same supernova event, and provided important evidence to inform the theory of how core-collapse supernovae take place. This theory included the expectation that this type of supernova would form a neutron star or a black hole. Astronomers have searched for evidence for one or the other of these compact objects at the center of the expanding remnant material ever since.
      Indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star at the center of the remnant has been found in the past few years, and observations of much older supernova remnants –such as the Crab Nebula – confirm that neutron stars are found in many supernova remnants. However, no direct evidence of a neutron star in the aftermath of SN 1987A (or any other such recent supernova explosion) had been observed, until now.
      Image: Supernova 1987A
      The James Webb Space Telescope has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a well-known and recently-observed supernova known as SN 1987A. At left is a NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) image released in 2023. The image at top right shows light from singly ionized argon (Argon II) captured by the Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS) mode of MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument). The image at bottom right shows light from multiply ionized argon captured by the NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph). Both instruments show a strong signal from the center of the supernova remnant. This indicated to the science team that there is a source of high-energy radiation there, most likely a neutron star. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, C. Fransson (Stockholm University), M. Matsuura (Cardiff University), M. J. Barlow (University College London), P. J. Kavanagh (Maynooth University), J. Larsson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) Claes Fransson of Stockholm University, and the lead author on this study, explained: “From theoretical models of SN 1987A, the 10-second burst of neutrinos observed just before the supernova implied that a neutron star or black hole was formed in the explosion. But we have not observed any compelling signature of such a newborn object from any supernova explosion. With this observatory, we have now found direct evidence for emission triggered by the newborn compact object, most likely a neutron star.”
      Webb’s Observations of SN 1987A
      Webb began science observations in July 2022, and the Webb observations behind this work were taken on July 16, making the SN 1987A remnant one of the first objects observed by Webb. The team used the Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS) mode of Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), which members of the same team helped to develop. The MRS is a type of instrument known as an Integral Field Unit (IFU).
      IFUs are able to image an object and take a spectrum of it at the same time. An IFU forms a spectrum at each pixel, allowing observers to see spectroscopic differences across the object. Analysis of the Doppler shift of each spectrum also permits the evaluation of the velocity at each position.
      Spectral analysis of the results showed a strong signal due to ionized argon from the center of the ejected material that surrounds the original site of SN 1987A. Subsequent observations using Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) IFU at shorter wavelengths found even more heavily ionized chemical elements, particularly five times ionized argon (meaning argon atoms that have lost five of their 18 electrons). Such ions require highly energetic photons to form, and those photons have to come from somewhere.
      “To create these ions that we observed in the ejecta, it was clear that there had to be a source of high-energy radiation in the center of the SN 1987A remnant,” Fransson said. “In the paper we discuss different possibilities, finding that only a few scenarios are likely, and all of these involve a newly born neutron star.”
      More observations are planned this year, with Webb and ground-based telescopes. The research team hopes ongoing study will provide more clarity about exactly what is happening in the heart of the SN 1987A remnant. These observations will hopefully stimulate the development of more detailed models, ultimately enabling astronomers to better understand not just SN 1987A, but all core-collapse supernovae.
      These findings were published in the journal Science.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
      Downloads
      Right click the images in this article to open a larger version in a new tab/window.
      Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
      Media Contacts
      Rob Gutro – rob.gutro@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Christine Pulliam – cpulliam@stsci.edu
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
      Related Information
      Star LifeCycle
      Star Types
      More Webb News – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/latestnews/
      More Webb Images – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/multimedia/images/
      Webb Mission Page – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/
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      Details
      Last Updated Feb 22, 2024 Editor Marty McCoy Related Terms
      Astrophysics Goddard Space Flight Center James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Neutron Stars Science & Research Stars Supernovae The Universe View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope has found the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a recently observed supernova. The supernova, known as SN 1987A, occurred 160 000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. SN 1987A was observed on Earth in 1987, the first supernova that was visible to the naked eye since 1604 — before the advent of telescopes.
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    • By NASA
      6 Min Read NASA’s Webb Depicts Staggering Structure in 19 Nearby Spiral Galaxies
      Webb’s set of 19 PHANGS images of face-on spiral galaxies. Credits:
      NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team It’s oh-so-easy to be absolutely mesmerized by these spiral galaxies. Follow their clearly defined arms, which are brimming with stars, to their centers, where there may be old star clusters and – sometimes – active supermassive black holes. Only NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope can deliver highly detailed scenes of nearby galaxies in a combination of near- and mid-infrared light – and a set of these images was publicly released today.
      The James Webb Space Telescope observed 19 nearby face-on spiral galaxies in near- and mid-infrared light as part of its contributions to the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) program. PHANGS also includes images and data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, which included observations taken in ultraviolet, visible, and radio light. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), PHANGS Team, Elizabeth Wheatley (STScI) These Webb images are part of a large, long-standing project, the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) program, which is supported by more than 150 astronomers worldwide. Before Webb took these images, PHANGS was already brimming with data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope’s Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, including observations in ultraviolet, visible, and radio light. Webb’s near- and mid-infrared contributions have provided several new puzzle pieces.
      Face-on spiral galaxy, NGC 628, is split diagonally in this image: The James Webb Space Telescope’s observations appear at top left, and the Hubble Space Telescope’s on bottom right. Webb and Hubble’s images show a striking contrast, an inverse of darkness and light. Why? Webb’s observations combine near- and mid-infrared light and Hubble’s showcase visible light. Dust absorbs ultraviolet and visible light, and then re-emits it in the infrared. In Webb’s images, we see dust glowing in infrared light. In Hubble’s images, dark regions are where starlight is absorbed by dust. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Hubble’s image of NGC 628 shows a densely populated face-on spiral galaxy anchored by its central region, which has a light yellow haze that takes up about a quarter of the view. The core is brightest at the center, washing out light from other objects. Delicate spiral arms start near the center and extend to the edges, rotating counterclockwise. There is more brown dust beginning at the center, but as the arms extend outward, brown dust lanes alternate with diffuse lines of bright blue stars. Throughout the spiral arms, there are bright pink patches of star-forming clusters. NASA, STScI Spiral galaxy NGC 628 is 32 million light-years away in the constellation Pisces. Webb’s image of NGC 628 shows a densely populated face-on spiral galaxy anchored by its central region, which has a light blue haze that takes up about a quarter of the view. In this circular core is the brightest blue area. Within the core are populations of older stars, represented by many pinpoints of blue light. Spiny spiral arms made of stars, gas, and dust also start at the center, largely starting in the wider area of the blue haze. The spiral arms extend to the edges, rotating counterclockwise. The spiraling filamentary structure looks somewhat like a cross section of a nautilus shell. The arms of the galaxy are largely orange, ranging from dark to bright orange. Scattered across the packed scene are some additional bright blue pinpoints of light, which are stars spread throughout the galaxy. In areas where there is less orange, it is darker, and some dark regions look more circular. A prominent dark “bubble” appears to the top left of the blue core. And a wider, elliptical “bubble” to the bottom right. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team “Webb’s new images are extraordinary,” said Janice Lee, a project scientist for strategic initiatives at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “They’re mind-blowing even for researchers who have studied these same galaxies for decades. Bubbles and filaments are resolved down to the smallest scales ever observed, and tell a story about the star formation cycle.”
      Excitement rapidly spread throughout the team as the Webb images flooded in. “I feel like our team lives in a constant state of being overwhelmed – in a positive way – by the amount of detail in these images,” added Thomas Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
      Spiral galaxy NGC 1300 is 69 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Spiral galaxy NGC 1087 is 80 million light-years away in the constellation Cetus. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Follow the Spiral Arms
      Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) captured millions of stars in these images, which sparkle in blue tones. Some stars are spread throughout the spiral arms, but others are clumped tightly together in star clusters.
      The telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) data highlights glowing dust, showing us where it exists around and between stars. It also spotlights stars that haven’t yet fully formed – they are still encased in the gas and dust that feed their growth, like bright red seeds at the tips of dusty peaks. “These are where we can find the newest, most massive stars in the galaxies,” said Erik Rosolowsky, a professor of physics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
      Spiral galaxy NGC 1566 is 60 million light-years away in the constellation Dorado. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Something else that amazed astronomers? Webb’s images show large, spherical shells in the gas and dust. “These holes may have been created by one or more stars that exploded, carving out giant holes in the interstellar material,” explained Adam Leroy, a professor of astronomy at the Ohio State University in Columbus.
      Now, trace the spiral arms to find extended regions of gas that appear red and orange. “These structures tend to follow the same pattern in certain parts of the galaxies,” Rosolowsky added. “We think of these like waves, and their spacing tells us a lot about how a galaxy distributes its gas and dust.” Study of these structures will provide key insights about how galaxies build, maintain, and shut off star formation.
      Spiral galaxy NGC 2835 is 35 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Dive Into the Interior
      Evidence shows that galaxies grow from inside out – star formation begins at galaxies’ cores and spreads along their arms, spiraling away from the center. The farther a star is from the galaxy’s core, the more likely it is to be younger. In contrast, the areas near the cores that look lit by a blue spotlight are populations of older stars.
      What about galaxy cores that are awash in pink-and-red diffraction spikes? “That’s a clear sign that there may be an active supermassive black hole,” said Eva Schinnerer, a staff scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. “Or, the star clusters toward the center are so bright that they have saturated that area of the image.”
      Spiral galaxy NGC 1512 is 30 million light-years away in the constellation Horologium. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Spiral galaxy NGC 1385 is 30 million light-years away in the constellation Fornax. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Research Galore
      There are many avenues of research that scientists can begin to pursue with the combined PHANGS data, but the unprecedented number of stars Webb resolved are a great place to begin. “Stars can live for billions or trillions of years,” Leroy said. “By precisely cataloging all types of stars, we can build a more reliable, holistic view of their life cycles.”
      In addition to immediately releasing these images, the PHANGS team has also released the largest catalog to date of roughly 100,000 star clusters. “The amount of analysis that can be done with these images is vastly larger than anything our team could possibly handle,” Rosolowsky emphasized. “We’re excited to support the community so all researchers can contribute.”
      Spiral galaxy NGC 1672 is 60 million light-years away in the constellation Dorado. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team Webb Telescopes view face-on of spiral galaxy NGC 4254. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team See the full set of 19 images from both Webb and Hubble and download them at full resolution.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
      Downloads
      Right click the images in this article to open a larger version in a new tab/window.
      Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
      Access These Images on the MAST Archive
      Media Contacts
      Laura Betz/NASA – laura.e.betz@nasa.gov, Rob Gutro/NASA– rob.gutro@nasa.gov
      NASA’s  Goddard Space Flight Center, , Greenbelt, Md.
      Claire Blome – cblome@stsci.edu, Christine Pulliam/STScI – cpulliam@stsci.edu
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
      Related Information
      Galaxy Types
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      Related Article: NASA’s Webb Reveals Intricate Networks of Gas and Dust in Nearby Galaxies
      PHANGS Website for Researchers
      Access These Images on the MAST Archive
      More Webb News – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/latestnews/
      More Webb Images – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/multimedia/images/
      Webb Mission Page – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/
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      Webb is the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It studies every phase in the…


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      Discover the universe: Learn about the history of the cosmos, what it’s made of, and so much more.

      Share








      Details
      Last Updated Jan 29, 2024 Editor ssabia Related Terms
      Astrophysics Galaxies Galaxies, Stars, & Black Holes Goddard Space Flight Center Hubble Space Telescope James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Missions Science & Research Spiral Galaxies The Universe View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      A new treasure trove of images from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope showcases near- and mid-infrared portraits of 19 face-on spiral galaxies. This new set of exquisite images show stars, gas, and dust on the smallest scales ever observed beyond our own galaxy.
      Teams of researchers are studying these images to uncover the origins of these intricate structures. The research community’s collective analysis will ultimately inform theorists’ simulations, and advance our understanding of star formation and the evolution of spiral galaxies.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      1 min read
      Hubble Studies a Sparkling Galaxy Pair
      This new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image features a pair of interacting galaxies called, NGC 5410 and UGC 8932/PGC 49896. NASA/ESA/D. Bowen (Princeton University)/Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America) A pair of small, interacting galaxies shine in this new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. The larger of the two galaxies is named NGC 5410 and was discovered in 1787 by British astronomer William Herschel. It spans 80,000 light-years across and has a bright white bar of stars at its center. It is also a spiral galaxy with a medium-sized nucleus and spread-out arms. NGC 5410 contains many young, blue star clusters, especially along its arms.
      The smaller of the two galaxies is called UGC 8932 or PGC 49896 and has a diameter of 60,000 light-years. It has a bright blue bar of stars at its core, indicating that it contains younger stars. Its shape is irregular, likely due to distortions from NGC 5410’s gravitational pull. 
      The pair lies 180 million light-years away in the Canes Venatici constellation and can be seen from the northern hemisphere. Between the two galaxies lies a stream of stars, almost like a bridge, caused by their interaction.
      Hubble imaged this galaxy in 2023 to examine if interactions between dwarf galaxies create reservoirs of particles that fuel star formation. 
      LEARN MORE:

      Hubble’s Cosmic Collisions


      Hubble Science: Galaxy Details and Mergers


      Hubble Science: Tracing the Growth of Galaxies


      Download this image

      Media Contact:
      Claire Andreoli
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
      claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
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      Details
      Last Updated Jan 26, 2024 Editor Andrea Gianopoulos Location Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Astrophysics Division Galaxies Goddard Space Flight Center Hubble Space Telescope Missions Spiral Galaxies The Universe Keep Exploring Discover More Topics From NASA
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      Since its 1990 launch, the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our fundamental understanding of the universe.


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