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Webb, Hubble Telescopes Team Up for Ethereal View of Dusty Galaxy

Break out the cosmic dust buster.

Two galaxies. The one on the left is a diffuse round glowing thing like a flashlight while the one the right has defined star-studded spiral arms.
Galaxy pair VV 191 aren't actively interacting, but the overlap between them highlights the role of interstellar dust in the spiral galaxy on the right.
NASA, ESA, CSA, Rogier Windhorst (ASU), William Keel (University of Alabama), Stuart Wyithe (University of Melbourne), JWST PEARLS Team

The latest installment in one of the greatest space buddy stories ever told is all about dust. The fresh James Webb Space Telescope and the old warhorse Hubble Space Telescope combined their powers to deliver an ethereal look at a pair of galaxies. The result shines a new light on interstellar dust.

The image of galaxy pair VV 191 shows a diffuse-looking elliptical galaxy on the left and a classic spiral galaxy on the right. The view is a melding of Webb's near-infrared vision with Hubble's observations of ultraviolet and visible light. 

One of Webb's talents is its ability to gaze through veils of dust in space to see underlying structures, like the "bones" of a galaxy's spiral arms. Combining Webb images with Hubble images can give astronomers a more complete understanding of space objects. 

The composite view of VV 191 highlights what's going on with dust in the spiral galaxy. While astronomically close to each other, the two galaxies aren't interacting. Webb's vision highlights the structure of the spiral galaxy's arms, which appear to overlap the elliptical galaxy behind it. Astronomers can then trace the dust along the arms.  

"Understanding where dust is present in galaxies is important, because dust changes the brightness and colors that appear in images of the galaxies," the Space Telescope Science Institute said in a statement Wednesday. "Dust grains are partially responsible for the formation of new stars and planets, so we are always seeking to identify their presence for further studies."

Hubble is a joint project from NASA and the European Space Agency, while Webb adds the Canadian Space Agency to that partnership. The VV 191 image puts an early spotlight on science work that's still in process. There's a lot of beauty in this view of VV 191, and a lot of science yet to come.