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A new James Webb Space Telescope image (JWST) reveals the Cartwheel Galaxy in stunning detail.
The image, NASA said, offers new details about star formation and the galaxy’s central black hole.
Pictured alongside two smaller companion galaxies, the Cartwheel galaxy is located about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor.
Its wagon-wheel appearance is the result of a collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy that is not shown.
Because of the colored inner and outer rings that extend out from the center, astronomers call it a “ring galaxy.”
At its heart: hot dust and clusters of stars.
The outer ring has been expanding for 440 million years and is dominated by star formation and supernovae.
The Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) imager looks in the near infrared range of 0.6 to 5 microns.
He sees wavelengths of light that can reveal even more stars.
While the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) already looked at the Cartwheel, the dust obscured his view.
“NIRCam also reveals the difference between the smooth distribution or shape of older star populations and dense dust in the core versus the clumped shapes associated with younger star populations outside,” said the NIRCam. agency in a statement with the image.
The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) reveals regions of the Cartwheel galaxy which form the spiral rays much more prominently.
“Webb’s observations underscore that the cartwheel is in a very transitional phase. The galaxy, which was likely a normal spiral galaxy like the Milky Way before its collision, will continue to transform,” NASA said. “While Webb gives us insight into the current state of the wheel, it also gives insight into what happened to this galaxy in the past and how it will evolve into the future.”
The first images from the international observatory, including the marvelous cosmic cliffs of the Carina Nebula, were released last month.