Dust is, simultaneously, both an astronomer’s dream and nightmare.
Lining galactic spiral arms, this dense material leads directly to new star-formation.
But it’s also opaque: blocking our view of luminous sources inside.
To truly understand how dust impacts a galaxy’s evolution, multiwavelength views are necessary.
ALMA, at very long wavelengths, reveals individual molecules and ions within galaxies.
Hubble and ground-based observatories can measure stars, starlight, and energized regions directly.
But only with JWST, and specifically its MIRI instrument, can dust be revealed directly.
The Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) survey aims to explain matter’s entire galactic life cycle.
They sampled 19 nearby spiral galaxies, imaging their insides in unprecedented detail.
Dust traces the spiral arms, where new stars form, nearly perfectly.
Galaxies with rich central bulges house a hotbed of activity inside.
Young, newly-formed stars heat the dust, causing it to radiate.
Glowing cavities of dust result from overlapping shells/bubbles, where stars inject energy.
MIRI reveals polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: organic, carbon-rich molecules.
The dust filament network shows a huge diversity of features across galaxies.
JWST’s views give us indirect glimpses into the earliest stages of stellar life cycles.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words.