Scientists published the latest images on Tuesday NASA’s winning James Webb Space Telescope. The newest release It documents the Cartwheel galaxy, about 500 million light-years away from our planet and aptly named for its wheel-like appearance, complete with a central hub, wheel and even wavy, fluorescent poles. Webb also noted two smaller companion galaxies in addition to Cartwheel.
The new images follow NASA’s July 12 unveiling ceremony five preliminary scenes Taken by the Webb Telescope, the most powerful space observatory ever built. Since its launch in December. 25, Webb’s 18 hexagonal gold mirrors were adapted to capture other targets in space, although not all images were released. Includes snapshots southern ring nebulalike a soap bubble expanding from a dead star and the amazing Carina Nebulaconsisting of swirling dust like jagged rocks.
Astronomers have been studying the Cartwheel galaxy for decades. It was first examined from two ground-based observatories in Australia, first the UK’s Schmidt Telescope and then the Anglo-Australian Telescope. But this is best known Hubble Space Telescopewhich Pictures taken in the 1990s with more detailed details of the galaxy’s makeup. And just like that, Webb revealed his presence in July even more distant galaxies that are hidden from our viewhis Cartwheel photographs zoomed in on detailed star formation in dozens of other star systems in the galaxy’s rings and beyond.
The appearance of the Cartwheel is due to the collision of two galaxies that happened hundreds of millions of years ago. “We think that the Chariot wheel probably started looking like the Milky Way, and then this other galaxy went by,” he said. Marcia Rieke, principal investigator of the near-infrared camera or NIRCam, one of the scientific instruments of the Webb telescope. The smaller galaxy, instead of being stuck in the large spiral it penetrated, moved away from the larger one. It is not visible in the image published by NASA.
Galactic collisions are not uncommon in deep space, although it is rare that they result in such perfect form as to be of human interest. Kirk Borne, principal investigator of Cartwheel’s Hubble observation but unrelated to Webb, said the galaxy’s strange shape, caused by chance during the merger, has intrigued astronomers for decades.
As the smaller galaxy collided with the larger galaxy—passing right through its middle—it disrupted each galaxy’s shape less, and both were able to maintain their relative individuality. “It was the gravitational field of this other galaxy that changed the shape of the cartwheel, changing the orbits of the stars in the original Cartwheel galaxy,” said Dr. Rieke said.
Dr. Borne, who studied other collisions of galaxies, described a small galaxy as a bullet passing through a large galaxy. After observing the space object in the 1990s, scientists noticed a trail of hydrogen gas left behind by the smaller galaxy. Borne called Cartwheel a “smoking gun” that shows it continues to move after creating its new structure.
Already 1.5 times the size of the Milky Way, the Cartwheel is still expanding, forming new stars both inside and outside its outer ring. However, there is no concrete answer as to how big Cartwheel will get, when it will stop growing, or what shape it will take when it grows.
Cartwheel images were already in their hands on July 12, although they weren’t publicly available until this week. They are filtered making them more visually accessible, highlighting vibrant, blue-colored young stars and red-colored molecules from older stars and cosmic dust floating between the rings. Although colorful, Joseph DePasquale, senior visual science developer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Webb and the Hubble spacecraft, pointed out that the stars and dust are actually infrared light instead of detected colors.
What sets Webb’s images apart from those taken by Hubble and the Anglo-Australian Telescope is the new technology for detecting that light in such detail. While Hubble has some ability to record light in the infrared spectrum, Webb is more advanced and produces more vivid images. For example, NIRCam, Dr. For more than 11 years, Rieke has been separating the infrared colors of stars, which are invisible to the human eye.
When Hubble captured the Cartwheel in the 1990s, the galaxy’s “spokes” were covered in clouds of light-scattering gas, making it difficult to see the thousands of stars forming inside. Now, Webb can see through cosmic dust because it can study mid-infrared and near-infrared light wavelengths. This helps confirm some theories about the Cartwheel’s makeup created using Hubble technology and reveals new information, such as the lack of star formation in some areas between the cartwheels.
“I think that the combination of the two telescopes, far from making one of them obsolete, actually increases the benefits and the power of Hubble, because now we can make these comparisons,” said Dr. Post said.