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 ripples in concentric circles caused by a pebble thrown into the 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.
During its expansion, the ring hits the surrounding gas, triggering the formation of stars.
This galaxy had already been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, but James Webb’s infrared capabilities are revealing new details hitherto hidden, allowing a large amount of dust to be seen through.
The composite image, from observations by two scientific instruments of the telescope, also features two other smaller galaxies, as well as many others in the background.
The Cartwheel galaxy is still in a state
transientunderlined the NASA in his press release. If the James Webb Telescope
provides us with an overview of [son] current state, it also gives us an idea of what happened to it in the past, and how it will evolve in the future.
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.