The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed star formation in a rare wheel-shaped galaxy that emerged from dust and gas in a long-ago galactic accident.
It’s called a galaxy cart wheel because of its striking resemblance to an old-fashioned wagon wheel, formerly Hubble Space Telescopebut Webb’s infrared gauze revealed many previously unseen details. galaxystructure.
Infrared light, which is mainly heat, penetrates through dust clouds, allowing The James Webb Space Telescope Peeking into regions of space that are dark to optical telescopes like Hubble. The new images include the Webb instruments NIRCam and MIRIrevealed the individual stars Clusters of very young stars in star-forming regions in the outer ring of the Cartwheel galaxy, as well as around the central supermass of the galaxy black holewhich is also covered with dust.
Cartwheel, about 500 million light years Far from Earth, in the constellation Sculptor in the southern sky, is an extremely rare type of galaxy that astronomers call a ring galaxy. Scientists believe that a long time ago Cartwheel was a common thing spiral galaxysimilar to ours Milky Way. Then, about 700-800 million light years ago, it collided with a smaller galaxy.
The crash changed its shape and structure as astronomers can see it today, creating two ring-like structures, one surrounding the galactic center and the other surrounding the entire galaxy. The Maryland-based Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which runs Webb, has two rings extending outward from the galactic center like “ripples in a pond.” statement (opens in new tab).
According to STScI, as the outer ring expands, it pushes the dust and gas surrounding the galaxy outward, triggering star formation. The areas where new stars are born appear as small blue dots in the image and are scattered throughout the galaxy, but especially concentrated in the outer ring.
Webb’s observations also reveal areas rich in hydrocarbons and silicate dust, which form spirals connecting the inner and outer rings. Previous Hubble images could also distinguish the spokes, but the new Webb observations make the features clearer, STScI said.
The Cartwheel galaxy is still changing as a result of a past crash, and the new observations will help provide insight into its past and future evolution.