NASA's James Webb Space Telescope continues to make scientific strides by the light-year. From its lofty perch in space, it has now turned its superb lenses towards the Cartwheel Galaxy, a strange and beautiful element of our universe. The pictures released by NASA show the strangely-shaped rings of stars and supernovas which were previously largely obscured by floating clouds of dust. The unique camera technology about the telescope has allowed this great stride forward.
After less than a year in space, the telescope has already sent stunning visuals to Earth of a variety of space phenomenon including the oldest galaxy ever discovered, images tracking the movements of Jupiter, and images of other distant reaches of the universe. The telescope's infrared cameras have been working overtime to create stunning images which can register light not visible to the naked eye or past telescopes.
The Cartwheel Galaxy is a special phenomenon 500-million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation. It was created by the collision of a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy, forming its distinctive shape. Two concentric rings are expanding, the smaller composed of bright young stars, and the larger of stars in formation and supernovas. Dust at the center of the rings has previously made observing the galaxy more challenging.
The new images of the Cartwheel Galaxy were taken using the NIRCam and MIRI imaging systems. The NIRCam senses the near-infrared light range from 0.6 to 5 microns. This helps cut through some of the dust which obscures visible light. The blue dots are stars or stars in the process of forming. The MIRI tool senses mid-infrared light. Its data appears red in the composite image below. According to NASA, “it reveals regions within the Cartwheel Galaxy rich in hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds, as well as silicate dust, like much of the dust on Earth. These regions form a series of spiraling spokes that essentially form the galaxy’s skeleton.”
While these images are better than ever, they are only a gorgeous snapshot of an ever evolving and expanding galaxy which still remains an intriguing sight.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has turned its lenses towards the Cartwheel Galaxy, a strange and beautiful element of our universe.