An amazing image captured byhas given us the cleanest look of the Cartwheel Galaxy yet.
NASA released the image of the distant galaxy — named for its resemblance to a wagon wheel — on Tuesday. The Cartwheel Galaxy is about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor, the agency said in a Press release.
The image shows the Cartwheel Galaxy next to two “smaller companion galaxies, with many other galaxies in the background.” The image reveals that the Cartwheel Galaxy has a bright inner ring and a surrounding colorful ring, the result of a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller one, NASA said.
According to NASA, the right inner ring of the galaxy contains a huge amount of hot dust, with the brightest regions holding giant young star clusters. The outer ring has been expanding from the center of the collision for about 440 million years. When it expands and collides with the surrounding gas, stars form.
The Cartwheel Galaxy, whose rings extend outward from the collision center, is categorized as a “ring galaxy,” which are rarer than spiral galaxies like our Milky Way, NASA said.
NASA had tried to get a clear look at the elusive galaxy, including using the Hubble Space Telescope, but was unable to because of the amount of dust obscuring the view. However, the Webb Advanced Space Telescope, whose Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) can detect infrared light, has clearly captured the young stars forming in the galaxy’s outer ring.
The image also gave an insight into what happened in the Cartwheel Galaxy in the past and how it is likely to evolve in the future. The galaxy, which was “apparently a normal galaxy like the Milky Way before its collision” is currently in a transition stage and will continue to transform, NASA said.