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Incredible New James Webb Image Shows “Cartwheel Galaxy” In Glorious Detail

Webb sees through dust and gas into regions out of reach of optical telescopes such as Hubble.

A unusual wheel-shaped galaxy that was created by a long-ago galactic catastrophe was seen by the James Webb Space Telescope as it looked through dust and gas to uncover star formation.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI and NIRCam instruments reveal star forming regions in the Cartwheel galaxy. (Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

The Hubble Space Telescope previously investigated the galaxy, known as the Cartwheel for its stunning resemblance to a wheel of an antique carriage, but Webb’s infrared look has uncovered a wealth of hitherto undiscovered characteristics in the galaxy’s structure.

As the European Space Agency notes in its post

 about the same image, this gorgeous capture is not only a feast for the eyes, but it will also help astronomers better understand how stars are formed

James Webb Space Telescope can see into areas of space that are hidden from optical observatories like Hubble because infrared light, which is basically heat, can pass through dust clouds. The Webb sensors NIRCam and MIRI, together with clusters of very young stars surrounding the galaxy’s center supermassive black hole, which is also cloaked in dust, showed individual stars within the star-forming regions in the outer ring of the Cartwheel galaxy in the latest photos.

The Cartwheel is a very uncommon form of galaxy known as a ring galaxy. It is situated around 500 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Sculptor in the southern sky. The Cartwheel was once thought to be a common spiral galaxy comparable to the Milky Way, according to scientists. It then collided with a smaller galaxy 700–800 million light-years ago.

Two ring-like formations, one around the galactic core and the other enclosing the whole galaxy, were created as a result of the collision, altering the galaxy’s shape and structure to what astronomers can observe today. The two rings spread out from the galaxy’s core like “ripples in a pond,” according to a statement from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which runs Webb and is situated in Maryland .

According to STScI, when the outer ring enlarges, it pushes the galaxy’s surrounding dust and gas outward and starts star formation. Small blue spots that are distributed across the galaxy but are particularly concentrated in the outer ring represent the regions where young stars are forming.

James Webb Space Telelscope’s MIRI camera reveals areas rich in hydrocarbons and silicate dust. (Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

The spokes that connect the inner and outer rings are shown to be abundant in silicate dust and hydrocarbons, according to the Webb findings. The spokes could also be seen in earlier Hubble photos, but the latest Webb observations make these structures considerably more obvious, according to STScI.

The recent data will contribute to our understanding of the history and future development of the Cartwheel galaxy, which is still changing as a result of the previous accident.

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