On Tuesday, NASA released a rare and stunning image of a galaxy 500 million light-years away, the Cartwheel Galaxy, whose rings show off with unparalleled clarity so far thanks to a brand new one. James Webb Space Telescope.
Astronomers, like our Milky Way, believe that the Cartwell Wheel Galaxy was once a spiral galaxy. But an astonishing event gave it its shape: the collision with another, smaller galaxy (not visible in the photo).
Then two rings formed from the center of the collision, similar to ripples in concentric circles caused by a pebble being thrown into the water. This is what earned it its evocative name. The first ring, in the middle, is very bright, and the second, outside, has been expanding for 440 million years. As it expands, the ring collides with surrounding gas, resulting in star formation.
New details hidden until now
This galaxy has already been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, but the infrared capabilities of James Webb reveal new details hidden so far, allowing to see a large amount of dust.
The composite image, taken from observations by two scientific instruments of the telescope, also shows two other small galaxies, as well as several other galaxies in the background.
In its statement, NASA said the Cartwell Wheel Galaxy was still in a “transient” state. While the James Webb Telescope “gives us a glimpse into its current state, it also gives us an idea of what happened to it in the past, and how it will evolve in the future.”
The James Webb Telescope, a $10 billion engineering gem, was launched into space about seven months ago, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
“Organizer. Social media geek. General communicator. Bacon scholar. Proud pop culture trailblazer.”