A rare and fascinating new film! After several stunning photos, the James Webb Space Telescope has revealed a view of the Cartwheel Galaxy, 500 million light-years away.
Like our Milky Way, astronomers believe that the Cartwheel Galaxy was once a spiral region. But an amazing event gave it its shape: a collision with another small galaxy (not visible in the picture). Two rings formed from the center of the collision, similar to the ripples in concentric circles caused by a pebble thrown into water. This is how it got its inspiring name.
The first ring, the brightest in the center, the second, outside, has been expanding for 440 million years. During its expansion, the ring hits the surrounding gas, triggering the formation of stars.
New details are out
The galaxy had already been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, but James Webb’s infrared capabilities revealed new details that had been hidden until now, allowing it to see through the large amount of dust. The composite image, from observations by the telescope’s two science instruments, features two smaller galaxies and more in the background.
The Cartwheel constellation is still in a “stable” state, NASA said in a statement. James Webb states that while the telescope “gives us a glimpse of (its) present state, it also gives us an idea of what has happened to it in the past and how it will evolve in the future”. A $10 billion engineering gem, the James Webb Telescope was launched into space seven months ago, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.