The rings of the Cartwheel galaxy, which lies 500 million light-years away, appear with unprecedented clarity thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope.
NASA on Tuesday released a rare and stunning image of a galaxy that lies 500 million light-years from Earth, the Cartwheel Galaxy, whose rings appear with clarity up to x27;unmatched here thanks to the brand new James Webb Space Telescope.
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 shiny, and the second, on the outside, is expanding for 440 million years.
During its expansion, the ring collides with 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, hitherto hidden details, 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 transient state, NASA said in its statement. While the James Webb Telescope gives us a glimpse of [its] 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 located in 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.