Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Webb telescope reveals a colorful cosmic chariot wheel

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The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed new details in another old Hubble Space Telescope image, this time with a sparkling pink and blue image of the distant Cartwheel Galaxy, located about 500 million light-years away.

The Cartwheel Galaxy was a spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way until a collision with a smaller galaxy began about 440 million years ago. The collision changed the galaxy to look more like a wheel, with a bright central ring of young star clusters and an outer ring dominated by star formation and stars dying in supernovae.

The new Webb image shows how Webb’s various instruments can be combined to offer scientists new insights into the cosmos.

The image is a combination of data from Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, and the Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI. NIRCAM is better able to see through dust and gas to observe young stars and star formation in the distant galaxy. The NIRCAM contributions to the image appear in blue, orange and yellow.

Meanwhile, MIRI captures the detailed structure of the dust and gas that NIRCam is peering through, revealing silica dust and hydrocarbons that appear red in the image. This dusty material creates massive “spoke”-like structures on the wheel and is also visible in a 2018 Hubble image of the galaxy.

According to a Nasa blog, the new details revealed by Webb will help scientists better understand the galaxy’s past and future evolution as it continues to be rocked by the collision.

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