Science

Webb telescope captures colorful Cartwheel galaxy 500 million light-years away

Webb telescope captures colorful Cartwheel galaxy 500 million light-years away
Written by boustamohamed31

PARIS, France — The James Webb Space Telescope peered through time and vast amounts of dust to capture a new image of the Milky Way galaxy, revealing the swirling ring of color with unprecedented clarity, NASA and the European Space Agency announced Tuesday.

Located about 500 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Sculptor, the Cartwheel took its shape 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 lake after a rock has been dropped,” NASA and ESA said in a joint statement.

A smaller white ring remains closer to the center of the galaxy, while the outer ring, with its colorful spokes, has been expanding into the universe for about 440 million years, the statement added.

As the outer ring expands, it collides with gas, triggering the formation of new stars.

The Hubble Space Telescope has previously captured images of the rare ring galaxy, which is believed to have been a spiral galaxy like our Milky Way before it was struck by a smaller interloper galaxy.

This image of a ringed galaxy known as the Cartwheel was taken by the Webb Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

But the Webb telescope, which launched in December 2021 and revealed its first images to global fanfare last month, has a much larger reach.

Webb’s ability to detect infrared light allows it to see through the “vast amount of hot dust” obscuring the view of the Wheel 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 that is similar to dust on Earth.

Behind the Wheel, two smaller galaxies shine brightly, while even more galaxies can be seen behind them.

The observations show that the Pinwheel galaxy is still in a “very transitional stage,” space agencies said.

“While Webb gives us a snapshot of Cartwheel’s current state, it also provides insight into what has happened to this galaxy in the past and how it will evolve in the future.”

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