A galaxy 500 million light-years away photographed

A galaxy 500 million light-years away photographed


WASHINGTON | NASA on Tuesday released a rare and stunning image of a galaxy 500 million light-years away, the Cartwheel Galaxy, whose rings appear with unprecedented clarity thanks to the new space telescope James Webb. 

Like our Milky Way, astronomers believe the Cartwheel Galaxy was once a spiral galaxy. But a spectacular event gave it its shape: the collision with another smaller galaxy (not visible in the image).

Two rings then formed from the center of the collision, similar to the concentric circle ripples caused by a pebble thrown into water. This is what earned it its evocative name.

The first ring, more in the center, is very bright, and the second, outside, has been expanding for 440 million years.  

As it expands, the ring collides with surrounding gas, triggering star formation.

This galaxy had previously been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, but the infrared capabilities of James Webb reveals new details previously hidden, as this new telescope can see through vast amounts of dust.  

The composite image, from observations by two telescope science instruments, also features two other smaller galaxies as well as several others in the background.

The Cartwheel Galaxy is still in a “transient” state, a pointed out NASA in its press release. While the James Webb Telescope “gives us a glimpse of [its] current state, it also gives us an idea of ​​what has happened to it in the past, and where it will evolve.”< /p>

A $10 billion engineering gem, the James Webb Telescope was launched into space about seven months ago, and is 1 .5 million kilometers from Earth.