The United States Space Agency (NASA) has released a rare and stunning image of a galaxy that lies 500 million light-years from Earth, the Cartwheel Galaxy, whose rings appear with unmatched yet with the brand new James Webb Space Telescope.
Astronomers believe that the Cartwheel galaxy was once a spiral galaxy, similar to the Milky Way, but a spectacular event gave it this wheel-like structure, namely a powerful collision with another galaxy more small. Two rings then formed from the center of the collision, similar to the ripples in concentric circles caused by a pebble thrown into the water, hence its evocative name.
The first ring, more in the center, is very bright, and the second, outside, has been expanding for 440 million years. During its expansion, the ring hits the surrounding gas, triggering the formation of stars, explains NASA in a press release. Discovered in the 1940s by the Swiss-American astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky, this galaxy had already been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, but James Webb’s infrared capabilities reveal new details hitherto hidden, allowing to see through a large amount of dust.
The composite image, from observations by two scientific instruments of the telescope, also features two other smaller galaxies, as well as many others in the background. The Cartwheel galaxy is still in a “transient” state, NASA said in its statement. A $10 billion engineering gem, the James Webb Telescope was launched into space about seven months ago and is 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.