Judges are sure to give this stunning image a perfect 10! NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured fantastic views of the Cartwheel Galaxy, which is located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation.
NASA says the image shows how the Cartwheel Galaxy has changed over billions of years. The galaxy’s appearance was caused by a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy. The collisions caused a cascade of separate and smaller events between the two galaxies.
The Cartwheel Galaxy is home to a bright inner ring and a surrounding, colorful ring as the collision affected its shape and structure. The two rings expand outwards from the collision’s center. Astronomers have dubbed this the “ring galaxy” since it’s a structure less common than spiral galaxies like the Milky Way.
An immense amount of hot dust lie within the Cartwheel Galaxy, with the brightest areas housing gigantic young star clusters. However, the outer ring, which has expanded for 440 million years, is controlled by star formation and supernovas. The outer ring rams into surrounding gas and triggers star formation when it expands.
Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera was able to reveal the difference between the shape of the older star populations and dense dust in the core compared to the clumpy shapes associated with the younger star populations outside of it.
Meanwhile, Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument captured regions within the Cartwheel Galaxy rich in hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds, including silicate dust, like much of the dust on Earth. NASA says these regions form a series of spiraling spokes that essentially form the galaxy’s skeleton.
NASA states that the Webb Telescope’s images unveil that the Cartwheel Galaxy is in a very transitory stage and will continue to transform. The telescope also provides insight into what happened to the galaxy in the past and how it will evolve in the future.