What happened now? It’s been less than a month since NASA released the first science data from the James Webb Space Telescope. Now that we’ve had time to dive into these incredible images, NASA has dazzled us with a new set of images that once again highlights just how advanced Webb is compared to its predecessor.
The image above is a composition Galaxy Cartwheel from the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Webb Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The galaxy is located about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor and is the result of a collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy. Here it is flanked by two smaller companion galaxies in front of many others.
NASA reported that the bright center contains a huge amount of hot dust, and the brightest regions are young star clusters. The outer ring of the galaxy has been expanding for about 440 million years and is about 1.5 times the size of our own Milky Way galaxy. As the ring enlarges, it collides with the surrounding gas, causing additional star formation.
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have previously photographed the Cartwheel galaxy using Hubble Space Telescope. The data from this observation was reprocessed in 2010 to bring out more detail in the image, but it still pales in comparison to what Webb was able to see with his advanced tools.
The blue, orange and yellow colors in the composite are the elements of NIRCam. NASA has stated that the individual blue dots are stars or star-forming foci. The red tints of MIRI show areas rich in hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds such as silica dust. It is these regions that make up the spiral “framework” spokes of the galaxy.
First batch of images from Webb included a look at the South Rim Nebula, Stefan’s Quintet, the Carina Nebula, spectral data from a giant exoplanet, and stunning deep field observations.
Webb’s latest observation is further evidence that the galaxy is in transition and will continue to evolve into the future.
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