The photos revealed by the James Webb Space Telescope never cease to amaze. Now, his instruments have managed to peer into the chaos of the Cartwheel galaxy, revealing new details about star formation: Webb’s powerful infrared gaze has managed to detect that, in that galaxy, tTwo other smaller galaxies also appear against a backdrop of many other galaxies.
The snapshot provided new insight into how the Cartwheel has changed over billions of years. Located about 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, this galaxy is a rare sight. It is that its appearance, very similar to that of the wheel, is the result of an intense event: a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller one. Collisions of galactic proportions always cause a cascade of different, smaller events between the galaxies involved. Cartwheel was no exception: the collision above all affected its shape and structure.
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.