The James Webb Space Telescope has peered through time and vast amounts of dust to capture a new image of the Cartwheel Galaxy that reveals the spinning color ring in unprecedented clarity, NASA and the European Space Agency said on Tuesday.
Located some 500 million light-years from Earth in the Sculptor constellation, Cartwheel took its form during a spectacular head-on collision between two galaxies.
The impact sent two rings expanding from the center of the galaxy “like ripples in a pond after a rock is thrown in,” NASA and ESA said in a joint statement.
A smaller white ring remains closer to the galaxy’s center while the outer ring, with its colored spokes, has been expanding into the universe for about 440 million years, the statement added.
As the outer ring expands, it overflows with gas and triggers the formation of new stars.
The Hubble telescope had previously captured images of the rare ring galaxy, which is thought to have been a spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way before it was struck by a smaller intruder galaxy.
But the Webb Telescope, which was launched in December 2021 and unveiled its first images to global fanfare last month, has a far wider reach.
Webb’s ability to see infrared light allowed him to see through the “tremendous amount of hot dust” obscuring the view of the Cartwheel Galaxy, NASA and ESA said.
This revealed new details about star formation in the galaxy, as well as the behavior of the supermassive black hole at its heart, they said.
It was also able to detect regions rich in hydrocarbons and other chemicals, as well as dust similar to dust on Earth.
Two smaller galaxies shine brightly behind the wagon wheel, while more galaxies can be seen behind them.
The observations show that the Cartwheel Galaxy is still in a “very transitional stage,” the space agencies said.
“While Webb gives us a snapshot of the current state of the cartwheel, it also gives insight into what has happened to this galaxy in the past and how it will evolve in the future.”
#Webb #Telescope #Captures #Colorful #Cartwheel #Galaxy