The James Webb Space Telescope captured a stunning image of the Cartwheel Galaxy
A stunning image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope has given us the clearest look yet at the Cartwheel Galaxy.
NASA released an image of a distant galaxy on Tuesday – named for its resemblance to a wagon wheel. The Cartwheel Galaxy is located about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor, the agency said in a press release.
The image shows the Cartwheel Galaxy as two “small companion galaxies, against a background of many other galaxies.” The Cartwheel Galaxy has a bright inner ring and a colorful surrounding ring, the result of a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy, NASA said.
According to NASA, the right inner ring of the galaxy contains a large amount of hot dust, with the brightest part holding a giant young star cluster. The outer ring has been expanding from the center of the collision for about 440 million years. Stars are formed when it expands and collides with the surrounding gas.
Cartwheel galaxies, whose rings extend outward from the collision center, are classified as “ring galaxies,” rarer than spiral galaxies like our Milky Way, NASA said.
NASA attempted to get a clear view of the elusive galaxy with the Hubble Space Telescope, but was unable to because of the amount of dust obscuring the view. However, the Advanced Webb Space Telescope, whose Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) can detect infrared light, has clearly captured young stars forming in the galaxy’s outer rings.
The image also provides insight into what happened to the Cartwheel Galaxy in the past and how it is likely to evolve in the future. The galaxy, which “was probably a normal galaxy like the Milky Way before the collision,” is currently in a transient state and will continue to change, NASA said.