James Webb Space Telescope captures Cartwheel Galaxy in stunning hues

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A new image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals the Cartwheel Galaxy in stunning detail. 

The image, NASA said, offers new details about star formation and the galaxy’s central black hole. 

Pictured alongside two smaller companion galaxies, the Cartwheel Galaxy is located about 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation.

Its wagon-wheel-esque appearance is the aftermath of a collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy that is not pictured.

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Because of the colorful inner and outer rings expanding from the center, astronomers call this a “ring galaxy.” 

At its core: hot dust and star clusters. 

The outside ring has expanded for 440 million years and is dominated by star formation and supernovas. 

A large pink, speckled galaxy resembling a wheel with a small, inner oval, with dusty blue in between on the right, with two smaller spiral galaxies about the same size to the left against a black background.
(Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

The Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) imager looks in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns. 

It sees wavelengths of light that can reveal even more stars.

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While the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has previously looked at the Cartwheel, dust obscured its view.

This image from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows a group of galaxies, including a large distorted ring-shaped galaxy known as the Cartwheel.

This image from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows a group of galaxies, including a large distorted ring-shaped galaxy known as the Cartwheel.
(Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

“NIRCam also reveals the difference between the smooth distribution or shape of the older star populations and dense dust in the core compared to the clumpy shapes associated with the younger star populations outside of it,” the agency said in a release with the image.

The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) reveals regions in the Cartwheel Galaxy that form the spiraling spokes much more prominently. 

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What looks much like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.

What looks much like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula.
(IMAGE: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

“Webb’s observations underscore that the Cartwheel is in a very transitory stage. The galaxy, which was presumably a normal spiral galaxy like the Milky Way before its collision, will continue to transform,” NASA said. “While Webb gives us a snapshot of the current state of the Cartwheel, it also provides insight into what happened to this galaxy in the past and how it will evolve in the future.”

The first images from the international observatory, including the wondrous cosmic cliffs of the Carina Nebula, were released last month. 

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