The James Webb Space Telescope has traversed time and massive amounts of dust to capture a new image of the “Car Wheel” galaxy with unprecedented clarity, the US and European space agencies NASA and ESA, respectively, reported on Tuesday. thursday (2).
Located about 500 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of the Sculptor, the Chariot Wheel acquired its shape after a head-on collision between two galaxies.
The impact caused two rings to expand from the center of the galaxy, “like ripples in the water of a tank after a stone is thrown into it,” NASA and ESA explained in a joint statement.
At the center of the galaxy is a smaller white ring, while the outer ring, with its colored rays, has expanded in the Universe over 440 million years, the note adds. As the outside expands, it collides with the gas, which causes new stars to form.
The Hubble telescope had already captured images of this rare ring galaxy, which was probably a spiral like the Milky Way before it was hit by a smaller galaxy. However, the Webb telescope, launched in December 2021, has a longer range to capture the photographs.
Webb’s ability to detect infrared light allowed it to pass through “an enormous amount of hot dust” that obscured the Chariot Wheel’s view of the galaxy, NASA and ESA said. In this way, the telescope has revealed new details about star formation in the galaxy, as well as the behavior of the supermassive black hole at its heart, the space agencies added.
It was also possible to detect regions rich in hydrocarbons and other chemicals, as well as Earth-like dust.
Behind the Chariot Wheel, two other smaller galaxies shine, and beyond them, even more structures can be seen.
Studies from the image show that the Car Wheel galaxy is still in a “very transient phase”, according to space agencies. “Webb gives us a snapshot of the current state of the Chariot Wheel and also provides a glimpse into what happened to this galaxy in the past and how it will evolve.”
© Agence France-Presse