NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has detected a sonic boom larger than the Milky Way.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has detected a sonic boom larger than the Milky Way.
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One of the most amazing images ever captured by the mighty NASA The James Webb Space Telescope belongs to the Stefan quintet, a group of five galaxies about 290 million light-years away. While the first blurry image released last year was eye-popping on its own, Webb’s team is also teaming up with other telescopes to reveal new insights about the group, including the cataclysmically huge shock wave from the intergalactic collision.

Astronomers used Webb’s observations in conjunction with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to detect a sonic boom several times larger than the Milky Way caused by the collision of galaxies in the Stefan quintet. The findings were presented at the American Astronomical Society press conference in January. 9 revealed insights into the gas clouds in the Stefan Quintet, along with the potential formation of a new galaxy.

At the center of the observation is a galaxy called NGC 7318b, which is on a collision course with its sister galaxy NGC 7318a. However, NGC 7318b is also colliding with the rest of Stephan’s Quintet, creating large disruptions in the surrounding clouds of hydrogen gas.

“When this intruder crashes into the cluster, it collides with an old stream of gas from a previous interaction between two of the other galaxies, creating a giant shock wave,” said Caltech Infrared Astronomer Philip Appleton, Center for Process and Analysis and lead investigator on the project. said in his statement.

He explained that the shock wave creates a “highly turbulent” layer, resulting in the formation of “unexpected structures” and also the recycling of molecular hydrogen gas. This gas can be used to create stars and eventually more galaxies.

However, Appleton adds that the team does not yet fully understand the science and data behind gas cycles. More research is needed to unravel its underlying mechanics and effects.

Fortunately, astronomers are more prepared than ever. Now that Webb is in orbit and paired with powerful radio telescopes like ALMA, researchers are armed with the best tools in history to study distant events at places like Stefan’s Quintet. The team now plans to use spectroscopic telescope arrays to study the galaxy group’s X-rays, thereby learning more about the mysterious, chaotic celestial body.

“These new observations gave us some answers, but ultimately showed things we didn’t know yet,” Appleton said. He later added: “Basically, there is one side to the story. Now is the time to buy another one.

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