A strange type of galaxy shines in new image from Webb telescope
(CNN) — The James Webb Space Telescope has peered through cosmic dust to reveal new details and a stunning image of a rare type of galaxy.
The latest image from the space observatory shows the Cartwheel galaxy, a ring galaxy located 500 million light-years away that formed when a large spiral galaxy and a small galaxy violently collided.
When galaxies collide, they can change shape and structure. In the Cartwheel galaxy, which looks a bit like a cartwheel, a colorful ring surrounds an even brighter inner ring, both of which expand away from the heart of the collision, as shown in the Webb telescope image.
These features are why scientists classify Cartwheel as a ring galaxy, which is much less common than spiral galaxies.
Astronomers have gained new insights into the individual stars and star formation within the chaotic galaxy, as well as the black hole at the galactic center, as a result of the capabilities of the Webb telescope.
The new image reveals more about how the galaxy has evolved over billions of years.
Giant clusters of young stars are forming amid the hot dust of the bright inner ring, the image shows.
Meanwhile, the outer ring has been expanding for 440 million years, and is where star formation and star death (in the form of supernova explosions) occur. As the ring expands, it collides with gas, causing more star formation.
Two small companion galaxies also appear in the image.
The Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories have studied Cartwheel, but accumulations of dust have obscured the galaxy’s mysteries. Webb is an infrared telescope that sees light that is invisible to the human eye, so it was able to capture new details that other instruments couldn’t.
The new image is a combination of data collected by Webb’s near-infrared camera and mid-infrared instrument and captures a moment in time as Cartwheel continues to slowly transform.
The Webb telescope officially began science operations on July 12, the same day NASA released its first images, and more images are on the way in the coming weeks, according to the space agency.