Incredible new images shed light on the mysteriously dusty Cartwheel Galaxy
The mysterious Cartwheel Galaxy with its covering of dust has now been viewed clearly for the first time with NASA’s new James Webb telescope.
Last month US President Joe Biden released the first high-resolution photo from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, giving a dramatic insight into the cosmos.
And since then stunning and revealing images have been made from the telescope that has been designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the known universe, ushering in a revolutionary era of astronomical discovery.
Now the most powerful space science telescope ever launched, costing £7.6 million, has sent back images from the chaos of the Cartwheel Galaxy – giving scientists more insight into star formation and the galaxy’s black hole.
“Webb’s powerful infrared gaze” shows how the Cartwheel Galaxy has changed over billions of years, stated NASA.
It said : “The Cartwheel Galaxy, located about 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, is a rare sight.
“Its appearance, much like that of the wheel of a wagon, is the result of an intense event – a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy not visible in this image. Collisions of galactic proportions cause a cascade of different, smaller events between the galaxies involved; the Cartwheel is no exception.”
The Cartwheel Galaxy has two rings, unlike our Milky Way galaxy which is a spiral, with a bright inner ring and a second colourful one which surrounds it.
Other telescopes have viewed the Cartwheel Galaxy but it has led to plenty of mystery with unclear images showing plenty of dust – but thanks to the Webb telescope with its infrared light there is now more clarity.
“The bright core contains a tremendous amount of hot dust with the brightest areas being the home to gigantic young star clusters. On the other hand, the outer ring, which has expanded for about 440 million years, is dominated by star formation and supernovas. As this ring expands, it ploughs into surrounding gas and triggers star formation,” stated NASA.
“Other telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, have previously examined the Cartwheel. But the dramatic galaxy has been shrouded in mystery – perhaps literally, given the amount of dust that obscures the view. Webb, with its ability to detect infrared light, now uncovers new insights into the nature of the Cartwheel.”
NASA also said that the images show the evolvement of the galaxy and gives an insight into how it will further develop.
The agency stated: “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. 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.”