NASA’s James Webb Telescope captures extreme view of merging galaxies

NASA's James Webb Telescope captures extreme view of merging galaxies
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Now that we have a powerful lens aimed at the deepest regions of the universe, our understanding of “surprise” when it comes to astronomy images has changed a bit.

Indeed, it is no longer surprising when NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals another a bright, ancient piece of space. At this point, we know we should expect nothing less advanced machine.

Instead, when the telescope sends back a amazing space image, now has more of a “JWST strikes again” feel. And yet our jaws legitimately drop every time.

This kind of dissonant version of “surprise” has happened again – to an extreme degree. Last week, scientists released JWST’s brilliant view of a cluster of galaxies converging around a single galaxy. massive black hole It hosts a rare quasar – aka moment an incomprehensibly bright jet of light from the chaotic center of the void.

There’s a lot going on here, I know. But the team behind the finding thinks it could be even higher.

“We think something dramatic is going to happen in these systems,” said Andrei Weiner, a Johns Hopkins astronomer and co-author of a study on the event, which will soon be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. said in the statement. For now, you can check out a detailed outline of the discovery in a paper Published in arXiv.


Artist’s concept of a galaxy with a bright quasar at its center.

NASA, ESA and J. Olmsted (STScI)

What’s particularly interesting about this portrait is that the quasar we’re holding is considered an “extremely red” quasar, meaning it’s far away from us and therefore physically rooted in a primitive region of space near the beginning of time.

In fact, because it requires team For light to travel through space, every stream of cosmic light that reaches our eyes and machines looks like it did a long time ago. It even captures moonlight 1.3 seconds To reach the Earth, therefore, when we look at the Moon, we see it 1.3 seconds in the past.

More specifically, with this quasar, scientists believe it took about 11.5 billion years for the object’s light to reach Earth, meaning we see it as it was 11.5 billion years ago. This also makes it one of the most powerful of its kind observed from such a huge distance (that is, 11.5 billion light-years away), according to the team.

“The galaxy is at this perfect point in its life, it’s going to turn around in a few billion years and look completely different,” Weiner said of the quasar-anchored realm.

An analysis of galactic rarity

In the color image presented by Weiner and other researchers, we see several things.

Each color in this figure represents material moving at a different speed.

ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, D. Wylezalek, A. Vayner & the Q3D Team, N. Zakamska

On the left a Hubble Space Telescope is a view of the region explored by the team, and in the middle is an exploded version of the point where JWST zeroed. Take a look at the far right of this image, where four separate color-coded boxes appear, and you’ll analyze different aspects of the JWST data broken down by velocity.

For example, a red object is moving away from us, while a blue object is moving towards us.

This classification tells us what the galaxies involved in the spectacular merger are like, including the one hosting the supermassive black hole and the trailing red quasar.

“What you see here is only a small fraction of what’s in the data set,” said Nadia L. Zakamska, a Johns Hopkins astrophysicist and co-author of the study. “There’s a lot going on here, so we highlighted what was the biggest surprise first. Every blob here is a baby galaxy merging into this parent galaxy, and the colors have different speeds, and everything is moving in a very complex way.”

Now, Zakamska says, the team will begin to unlock the moves and further enhance our vision. Already, we’re looking at more incredible data than expected for the team to begin with. Hubble and the Gemini-North telescope have previously indicated the possibility of a transiting galaxy, but they never hinted at the swarm we can see in JWST. awesome infrared equipment.

Toward the center, slightly to the southwest, is a bright circle depicting Neptune.  Faint glowing rings appear around the orb.  To the northwest of this globe is a six-pointed, bright bluish device that represents one of Neptune's moons.  Tones of stains and swi

Another spectacular image captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) shows the Neptune system alongside hundreds of background galaxies of various sizes and shapes.


“With previous images, we saw hints that the galaxy is interacting with other galaxies on a merger path because their shapes are being distorted in the process,” Zakamska said. “But after we got the Webb data, I was like, ‘I have no idea what we’re looking at here, what is all this!’ We spent a couple of weeks just looking at these images.”

It soon became clear that JWST was showing us at least three separate galaxies moving at incredible speeds, the team said. They even believe it may mark one of the densest known areas of galaxy formation in the early universe.


An artist’s impression of the quasar P172+18, which is associated with a black hole 300 times the mass of the Sun.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

Everything about this intricate image is fascinating. We have a black hole that Zakamska calls a “monster,” a very rare stream of light spewing from that black hole, and a jam of galaxies on a collision course—all of which appear to be the case. billions of years have passed.

So I dare? JWST strikes again, giving us a very precious space vignette. Hint, jaw dropping.

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