James Webb Takes The First Pictures Of The Cartwheel Lenticular Galaxy

In a new image by James Webb, the Cartwheel galaxy is captured in all its glory. NASA says the new image will reveal its history’s secrets and help look into the future.

NASA has released a new James Webb image showing the chaotic Cartwheel Galaxy.

The US space agency has released the latest image from its $10 billion infrared space observatory, saying it provides “a glimpse into the past and future of our universe.”

An image of the Cartwheel galaxy. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

According to NASA, these images provide new details about the processes of star formation and the black hole at the center of the galaxy. JWST’s powerful IR tools deliver incredibly detailed images. This is yet another impressive demonstration of the capabilities of the space observatory since the start of its scientific activity last month.

Peering into the “chaos” of the Cartwheel galaxy

The new images show the Cartwheel galaxy and two smaller star clusters. It should be noted that, as in the first historical JWST image, all these barely visible objects in the background are also galaxies.

Изображение от NIRCam (слева) и от Mid-Infrared Instrument (справа). Source: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

Since the launch of the Science Observatory, NASA has constantly been releasing new data from James Webb, including the first sighting of a supernova. NASA announced today that new images of the Cartwheel Galaxy provide unprecedented details about the evolution of this unique region of space. This lenticular and ring-shaped cluster of stars is located at a distance of about 153 million parsecs from the Earth and in the constellation Sculptor.

As NASA explains in a blog post, the wheel-like appearance of the galaxy is the result of an ancient collision with another smaller galaxy. In fact, at the moment, we are witnessing the result of a large-scale intergalactic merger. According to NASA, “there are two rings in the Cartwheel galaxy – a large bluish ring (wheel rim) around the bright central part. These two structures expand outward from the center of the collision, like waves in water after a thrown rock.” This type of “ring galaxies” with its unique features is much rarer than spiral galaxies such as the Milky Way.

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James Webb vs Hubble Comparison

As with other images taken by James Webb, when compared with older Hubble images, new details can be seen that JWST has found. The James Webb Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) has the unique ability to penetrate the cosmic dust that obscures much of the detail in early Hubble images.

The Cartwheel Galaxy as photographed by Hubble. Source: Curt Struck, Philip Appleton, Kirk Borne, Ray Lucas, NASA/ESA

NASA explained that the bluish ring of the Cartwheel Galaxy, which has been expanding for about 450 million years, is dominated by star formation and supernova explosions. This is explained by the fact that as the ring expands, it interacts with the surrounding gas, dust, and plasma, causing the birth of new stars. With the NIRCam camera, you can see these evolving areas in great detail. According to the US space agency, this means that the new images reveal the galaxy’s history and show how it will develop in the future.