The James Webb Telescope offers a glimpse of the Cartwheel galaxy

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning image of the Cartwheel galaxy, revealing new details about its formation, shape and structure.

The image released by NASA on Tuesday shows the Cartwheel galaxy in never-before-seen detail. The large, pink, speckled galaxy that resembles the wheel of a wagon is pictured in a “very transitional stage” alongside two companion spiral galaxies, located about 500 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sculptor in the southern sky.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.

This cosmic snapshot offers new insight into how the Cartwheel Galaxy has changed over billions of years and how it is likely to evolve in the future. Researchers say the shape and structure of the Cartwheel Galaxy show it was created as a result of an intergalactic collision “between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy”, which is not visible on the image.

The galaxy’s striking shape is formed by a colorful outer ring and a bright inner ring with spiraling light rays. NASA explains that these rings extend outward from the center of the collision “like ripples in a pond after a stone has been thrown into it.” These distinctive features have led astronomers to categorize the Cartwheel galaxy as a “ring galaxy”, making it a much rarer sighting.

The galaxy’s bright core “contains an enormous amount of hot dust, with the brightest areas hosting gigantic young star clusters,” according to NASA. “On the other hand, the outer ring, which has been expanding for about 440 million years, is dominated by star formation and supernovae. As this ring expands, it expands. sinks into the surrounding gas and triggers star formation.”

Images from the James Webb Space Telescope

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