Stephan’s Quintet (MIRI Image)
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Stephan's Quintet (MIRI Image) Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

With its powerful, mid-infrared vision, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows never-before-seen details of Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies. MIRI pierced through dust-enshrouded regions to reveal huge shock waves and tidal tails, gas and stars stripped from the outer regions of the galaxies by interactions. It also unveiled hidden areas of star formation. The new information from MIRI provides invaluable insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

This image contains one more MIRI filter than was used in the NIRCam-MIRI composite picture. The image processing specialists at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore opted to use all three MIRI filters and the colors red, green and blue to most clearly differentiate the galaxy features from each other and the shock waves between the galaxies.

In this image, red denotes dusty, star-forming regions, as well as extremely distant, early galaxies and galaxies enshrouded in thick dust. Blue point sources show stars or star clusters without dust. Diffuse areas of blue indicate dust that has a significant amount of large hydrocarbon molecules. For small background galaxies scattered throughout the image, the green and yellow colors represent more distant, earlier galaxies that are rich in these hydrocarbons as well.

Stephan’s Quintet’s topmost galaxy – NGC 7319 – harbors a supermassive black hole 24 million times the mass of the Sun. It is actively accreting material and puts out light energy equivalent to 40 billion Suns. MIRI sees through the dust surrounding this black hole to unveil the strikingly bright active galactic nucleus.