James Webb sheds incredible new light on chaotic cartwheel galaxies

It didn’t take long for images from the James Webb Space Telescope to begin demonstrating the incredible power of the device. Attractive new detailsAnother stunning example of this has arrived thanks to the telescope’s advanced infrared cameras, illuminating an incredible new component of what is known as the cartwheel galaxy.

The cartwheel galaxy, located about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor, is the product of a purple galaxy collision involving a large spiral galaxy and a small spiral galaxy (no longer in our field of view). As the smaller galaxy passed, it set off a shock wave that swept away gas and dust, creating a ripple effect like a stone slamming into the middle of a lake.

The outer ring is thought to have been expanding for about 440 million years and is now 1.5 times the size of our own Milky Way. As it extends outward, it collides with the surrounding gas, causing star formation and supernovae. Meanwhile, the bright core that makes up the inner ring contains vast amounts of hot dust, with the brightest patches showing huge clusters of young stars.

Collectively, it forms one of the most dramatic examples of ring galaxies known to science. Webb’s predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, had previously imaged cartwheel galaxies, but these observations were plagued by huge amounts of dust obscuring the view. please look.

An image of a cartwheel galaxy taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

ESA/Hubble & NASA

Webb used next-generation camera equipment to reveal a whole new perspective of the chaotic cartwheel galaxy. The telescope’s primary imaging instrument, the near-infrared camera (NIRCam), observes light at key wavelengths, revealing young stars forming in their outer rings that were previously invisible. The NIRCam data also reveal differences between the clumpy nature of these young stars and the smoother shapes of older stars.

Using the mid-infrared instrument, Webb also revealed important new details about the fine dust spread across the cartwheel galaxy. The data are shown in red in the composite image at the top of the page, highlighting regions rich in chemical compounds such as hydrocarbons and silicate dust. These form the spiral “spokes” that make up the skeleton of the galaxy. This can be seen in Hubble’s early observations, but in much dimmer light.

Images of cartwheel galaxies from Webb's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)
Images of cartwheel galaxies from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

NASA has high resolution versions of these new images of the cartwheel galaxy available at the link below.

sauce: NASA James Webb sheds incredible new light on chaotic cartwheel galaxies

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