A stunning image taken by James Webb Space Telescope has given us the clearest look of the Cartwheel Galaxy so far.
NASA on Tuesday released an image of a distant galaxy – named for its resemblance to a wagon wheel. The Cartwheel Galaxy is located about 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, the agency said. Press release.
The image shows the Cartwheel Galaxy with two “small companion galaxies, against a background of several other galaxies.”
The image shows that the Cartwheel Galaxy has a bright inner ring and a surrounding colored ring, the result of a high-speed collision between a larger spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy, NASA said.
According to NASA, the galaxy’s right inner ring contains massive amounts of hot dust, with huge young star clusters in the brightest regions. The outer ring has been protruding from the center of the collision for about 440 million years. When it expands and collides with the surrounding gas, stars are formed.
The cartwheel galaxy, whose rings extend outward from the center of the collision, is classified as a “ring galaxy,” which is more rare than spiral galaxies like our Milky Way, NASA said.
NASA had tried to get a clear look at the elusive galaxy, including the use of the Hubble Space Telescope, but was unable to obscure the view due to the amount of dust. 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 ring.
The image has also provided insight into what happened to the Cartwheel Galaxy in the past and how it is likely to evolve in the future. The Milky Way, which was “likely a normal galaxy like the Milky Way before the collision” is currently in a transient phase and will continue to change, NASA said.