The James Webb Space Telescope stepped back in time to capture a new image of the Cartwheel Galaxy with unprecedented clarity, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) reported.
By head-on collision between two galaxies, it caused two rings to spread out from the center of the galaxy, “like ripples in a pond after a stone is thrown into it,” NASA and ESA explained in a joint statement.
At the center of the galaxy is a smaller white ring, while the outer ring, with its colored spokes, has been expanding in the universe for about 440 million years, the statement added. As the outside expands, it collides with gas, causing new stars to form.
The Hubble telescope has already captured images of this strange ring galaxy, which is thought to have been a spiral like the Milky Way before a smaller galaxy hit it.
But the Webb telescope, which launched in December 2021, has a longer range to get the pictures.
Webb’s ability to detect infrared light allowed him to see through the “huge amount of hot dust” that obscured the view of the Cartwheel Galaxy, NASA and ESA said.
This revealed new details about star formation in the galaxy, as well as the behavior of the supermassive black hole at its heart, they said.
It may interest you: The Hubble telescope captured amazing images of three galaxies
It was also able to detect regions rich in hydrocarbons and other chemicals as an Earth-like dust.
Behind the Cartwheel, two other smaller galaxies shine, and beyond these, even more structures can be seen.
Studies from the image show that the Cartwheel Galaxy is still in a “very transient phase,” according to space agencies.
“Webb gives us a snapshot of the current state of the Cartwheel and also provides insight into what has happened to this galaxy in the past and how it will evolve in the future.”