NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has already blown the minds of humans across the globe with its original set of color images. Now Webb has a new image, one of the chaotic Cartwheel galaxy.
I mean, is anyone complaining about more beautiful photos from Webb’s camera? Personally, I don’t think we’ve beat the beauty of Webb’s “Cosmic Cliffs” image, but the unique look of The Cartwheel galaxy shines bright in the current lineup of Webb images.
The Cartwheel galaxy is shaped like an old wagon wheel, hence the name. It’s a spiral galaxy. However, it has collided with another galaxy, forming this shape we don’t see often. The photo taken by Webb depicts Cartwheel and two other companion galaxies and is being used to study the galaxy’s star formation.
Peering through the dust, Webb can see the structure of stars in both the center mass of older stars and the outside ring of younger ones. The outer ring is moving outward, and stars are formed as it collides with other collections of gas. At the galaxy’s center is a mass of not just older stars but a black hole, which has become common since one was discovered in the center of our galaxy.
Other observatories have taken a look at The Cartwheel galaxy, including Hubble. However, Webb’s near and mid-infrared capabilities have been the first to get a detailed look beyond the gas that surrounds Cartwheel. This wavelength allows researchers to get a better look at what is all going on in the hectic dance of two colliding galaxies.
Comparison to Hubble’s photo of the same galaxy
Hubble also took a photo of The Cartwheel, but it doesn’t show nearly as much detail as Webb. Below is a comparison between Hubble’s Cartwheel image and Webb’s image. Remember that Hubble’s image (left) is more focused on the visible light (what humans can see), and Webb’s image (right) is focused on infrared light and is a false color image.
You can see that Webb can capture way more galaxies. This is thanks to its larger mirror and infrared focus, as most of those galaxies are so redshifted (the process of light being stretched out) and Hubble’s sensors can’t see them.
This is just the beginning of Webb images to be released. As researchers begin to get time to use the telescope, we will see more amazing images like this.