Step into a breathtaking cosmic realm as you witness the mesmerizing beauty of four composite photos capturing the cosmic wonders obtained by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and James Webb Space Telescope. You can catch a glimpse of this cosmic wonder two galaxies within these frames, a nebula, and a star cluster. Each image combines Chandra’s X-rays — a type of high-energy light — with previously disclosed Webb infrared data, both of which are undetectable to the naked eye. Data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (optical light) and the decommissioned Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared) are used, as well as data from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton (X-ray) and the European Southern Observatory’s New Technology Telescope (optical). These cosmic beauties and details are made available by mapping the data to human-perceivable colors.

dazzling views from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and James Webb Space Telescope
Credits: X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/SAO, XMM: ESA/XMM-Newton; IR: JWST: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI, Spitzer: NASA/JPL/CalTech; Optical: Hubble: NASA/ESA/STScI, ESO; Image Processing: L. Frattare, J. Major, and K. Arcand

What is NGC 346 and how does the Webb telescope depict the gas and dust surrounding Cosmic Wonders?

NGC 346:

About 200,000 light-years from Earth, in the Small Magellanic Cloud, is a star cluster known as NGC 346, showcasing cosmic wonders. Webb depicts plumes and arcs of gas and dust used as source material by stars and planets during their formation. The purple cloud seen with Chandra on the left is the remnants of a huge star’s supernova explosion. The Chandra data also indicates young, hot, huge stars with tremendous winds erupting from their surfaces. Along with supporting data from XMM-Newton and the ESO’s New Technology Telescope, additional Hubble, Spitzer, and data are included. (X-ray colors: purple and blue; infrared/optical colors: red, green, and blue)

What cosmic wonders does NGC 1672 hold?


Just like NGC 346 is also an NGC 1672 a spiral galaxy is one of the cosmic wonders, however, it is classified as a “barred” spiral by astronomers. The arms of barred spiral galaxies are typically in a straight band of stars across the center that encloses the core in regions close to their centers, in contrast to other spirals that have arms that twist all the way to their core. The Chandra data show compact objects such as neutron stars or black holes sucking material from partner stars as well as relics of exploding stars. Hubble data (optical light) fills in the spiral arms with dust and gas, while Webb data reveals dust and gas in the galaxy’s spiral arms. (X-ray is purple; optical is red, green, and blue; infrared is red, green, and blue)

What is M16 (Cosmic Wonders) and how does the Webb telescope depict the gas and dust surrounding it?


Messier 16, often recognized as the Eagle Nebula, unveils cosmic wonders in the form of the renowned “Pillars of Creation.” The Webb image depicts black columns of gas and dust enveloping the few remaining newborn stars. The Chandra sources, which appear as dots, are young stars that emit a lot of X-rays. (Infrared: red, green, blue; X-ray: red, blue)

What is the significance of Messier 74 and how does the Webb telescope reveal the characteristics of gas and dust within the galaxy?



One of the other cosmic wonders Messier 74, which we can view directly from Earth, is a spiral galaxy just like our own Milky Way. It is approximately 32 million light-years away. Messier 74 is known as the Phantom Galaxy because it is less visible with tiny telescopes than other galaxies in Charles Messier’s famous catalog from the 18th century. Infrared data from Webb highlights gas and dust, whereas X-ray data from Chandra highlights high-energy activity from stars. Additional stars and dust are visible in Hubble optical data along the dust lanes. (Optical: orange, cyan, blue; infrared: green, yellow, red, magenta; X-ray: purple)

Bright galaxy Centaurus A (Cen A) stands out prominently in this composite image from several different telescopes. A supermassive black hole consumes matter from the surrounding gas and dust and shoots out enormous jets of high-energy particles and other matter. About 13,000 light-years away from the black hole is where the jet shown in the top left of this image begins. A dust lane can be seen circling the galaxy’s core; it likely formed as a result of a collision with a more compact galaxy many millions of years ago.

Bright galaxy Cen A Colorful view captured by multiple telescopes:

The data origins inspired the image’s color scheme. The images were captured by three different tools: Chandra X-ray Observatory, IXPE satellite, and European Southern Observatory. Chandra’s images are in blue, IXPE’s images are in orange, and ESO’s images are in white and gray. The white and gray colors represent optical light in ESO’s images. 

Bright Galaxy with Black Hole

How has IXPE helped scientists study polarization and X-ray emission in Cen A’s jets, a Bright Galaxy?

Since Chandra was launched in 1999, a lot has been learned about Cen A. In 2021, scientists will have a new tool at their disposal thanks to the launch of the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE). IXPE is designed to study polarization, a characteristic of X-ray radiation that is related to the structure of electromagnetic waves. Scientists are using this precise measurement to learn more about how particles are pushed to nearly the speed of light in the most extreme cosmic objects. Cen A, also known as NGC 5128, is a Bright Galaxy located in the constellation Centaurus, approximately 11 million light-years away from Earth. 

IXPE Observation:

Using IXPE, scientists at Cen A are investigating the origins of the X-ray emission in the jets. If particles heavier than electrons, such as protons, aren’t responsible for making the X-rays at Cen A, then the polarization of the X-rays should be detectable. Scientists will learn more as they continue to examine the data.

Cen A, the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky, is located 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.