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Webb’s image of NGC 4254 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.

NGC 4254 (Webb Image)

It’s oh-so-easy to be mesmerized by this spiral galaxy. Follow its clearly defined arms, which are brimming with stars, to its center, where there may be old star clusters and – sometimes – active supermassive black holes. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope delivered highly detailed scenes of this and other nearby spiral galaxies in a combination of near- and mid-infrared light.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Janice Lee (STScI), Thomas Williams (Oxford), and the PHANGS team

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