Spectacularity once again characterizes the photographs taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Its technology and its instruments have now surprised with an image of the chaotic Cartwheel galaxy, thus revealing new details about star formation and black holes. A milestone that continues that of his first image, which gave an approximation of the appearance of deep space.
This peculiar galaxy does not appear alone. Webb’s powerful infrared gaze has taken a detailed snapshot of Cartwheel, but also of two smaller companion galaxies against a backdrop of many other galaxies.
The snapshot, which also reveals the behavior of the black hole within the galaxy’s galactic center, provides new insight into cHow has it changed over billions of years? the American NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) point out in separate press releases.
Webb is on a roll! 🤸
This new @NASAWebb near and mid-infrared composite image highlights the Cartwheel Galaxy, the result of a high-speed collision that occurred about 440 million years ago, along with two neighboring galaxies. Get the details: https://t.co/c8lEVBBlub pic.twitter.com/eVe8m0k6N7
— NASA (@NASA) August 2, 2022
The Cartwheel galaxy, located about 500 million light years in the constellation of Sculptor, It is an unusual sight. Its appearance, much like that of a cartwheel, is the result of an intense event: a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller one, not visible in this image.
Collisions of galactic proportions always cause a cascade of different, smaller events between the galaxies involved. Cartwheel is no exception. The collision mainly affected its shape and structure.
[El telescopio James Webb hace historia: su primera imagen es “un viaje al inicio del universo”]
This galaxy has two rings, a bright inner one and a colored surrounding one. These expand outward from the center of the collision, like ripples in a pond after a stone is thrown into it. Because of these distinctive features, astronomers call it a “ring galaxy,” a less common structure than spiral galaxies like the Milky Way.
The bright core contains a huge amount of hot dust, and the brightest areas are home to gigantic clusters of young stars. On the other hand, the outer ring, which has been expanding for about 440 million years, is dominated by star formation and supernovae. As this ring expands, it penetrates the surrounding gas and triggers star formation.
[Cinco claves para entender el James Webb: el prodigio de la ingeniería que revela los misterios del cosmos]
In the wake of Hubble
It is not the first time that a telescope has captured an image of this stellar group -Hubble did it, for example-, but the dramatic galaxy has been shrouded in mystery -perhaps literally, given the amount of dust that obscures the view-, NASA and ESA point out.
The Webb, with its ability to detect infrared light, is now discovering new information about its nature. For example, the information collected by the MIRI instrument reveals hydrocarbon-rich regions within the galaxy and other chemical compounds, as well as silicate powder.
[Galaxias chocando y exoplanetas al detalle: el James Webb revela un cosmos desconocido]
These regions form a series of spiral spokes that essentially form the skeleton of the galaxy. These had already been seen in Hubble observations published in 2018, but they become much more prominent in this Webb image. The Webb’s photo underscores that Cartwheel is in a very transitional stage.
The galaxy, which was presumably a normal spiral galaxy like the Milky Way before its collision, will continue to transform. Although Webb offers a snapshot of the current state of it, it also provides insight into what happened to this galaxy in the past and how it will evolve in the future.
The collaboration of NASA, ESA and the Canadian CSA has made possible the James Webb, which also has Spanish participation and of which his first image was known on July 11.
Follow the topics that interest you