The James Webb Space Telescope points to one of the strangest galaxies in the universe

The James Webb Space Telescope points to one of the strangest galaxies in the universe

The James Webb Space Telescope continues to produce images of some of the more unusual features of deep space.

This week, NASA and its partners released new images of what they called a “rare” feature: the rings and rays of the Cartwheel galaxy, about 500 million light-years from Earth in the Sculptor constellation.

“Its appearance, very similar to that of a chariot wheel, is the result of an intense event – a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy not visible in this image,” NASA said. in a press release. “Collisions of galactic proportions cause a cascade of different and minor events between the galaxies involved; the Cartwheel is no exception.

Space agencies have released several images, including this composite from its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI):

Cartwheel Galaxy (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

Cartwheel Galaxy (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

Cartwheel Galaxy (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

“The Cartwheel is made up of two rings, a bright inner ring and a colored outer ring,” the Space Telescope Science Institute, which manages the science and mission operations for the telescope, said in a press release. “Both rings expand outward from the center of the collision as shock waves.”

These ring galaxies, as they are known, are far less common than spiral galaxies, such as our own Milky Way.

NASA said the bright core contains hot dust and “giant young star clusters,” while the outer ring – which has been expanding for 440 million years – features the formation of new stars and supernovae.

“The shape the Cartwheel galaxy will eventually take, given these two competing forces, is still a mystery,” said the Space Telescope Science Institute. “However, this snapshot provides a perspective on what happened to the galaxy in the past and what it will do in the future.”

Here is the image only from the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI):

This image from Webb's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows a group of galaxies, including a large distorted ring-shaped galaxy known as the Cartwheel.  The Chariot Wheel Galaxy, located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, is composed of a luminous inner ring and an active outer ring.  Although this outer ring has a lot of star formation, the dusty area in the middle reveals many stars and star clusters.  hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds, as well as silicate dust, like much of the dust on Earth.  Young stars, many of which are present in the lower right side of the outer ring, energize the surrounding hydrocarbon dust, causing it to turn orange.  On the other hand, the clearly defined dust between the core and the outer ring, which forms the rays that inspire the name of the galaxy, is mainly silicate dust.  Cartwheel's smaller spiral galaxy at the top left exhibits much of the same behavior, displaying a large amount of star formation.  (Photos: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

This image from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows a group of galaxies, including a large distorted ring-shaped galaxy known as the Cartwheel. The Chariot Wheel Galaxy, located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, is composed of a luminous inner ring and an active outer ring. Although this outer ring has a lot of star formation, the dusty area in the middle reveals many stars and star clusters. hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds, as well as silicate dust, like much of the dust on Earth. Young stars, many of which are present in the lower right side of the outer ring, energize the surrounding hydrocarbon dust, causing it to turn orange. On the other hand, the clearly defined dust between the core and the outer ring, which forms the rays that inspire the name of the galaxy, is mainly silicate dust. Cartwheel’s smaller spiral galaxy at the top left exhibits much of the same behavior, displaying a large amount of star formation. (Photos: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

This image from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows a group of galaxies, including a large distorted ring-shaped galaxy known as the Cartwheel. The Chariot Wheel Galaxy, located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, is composed of a luminous inner ring and an active outer ring. Although this outer ring has a lot of star formation, the dusty area in the middle reveals many stars and star clusters. hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds, as well as silicate dust, like much of the dust on Earth. Young stars, many of which are present in the lower right side of the outer ring, energize the surrounding hydrocarbon dust, causing it to turn orange. On the other hand, the clearly defined dust between the core and the outer ring, which forms the rays that inspire the name of the galaxy, is mainly silicate dust. Cartwheel’s smaller spiral galaxy at the top left exhibits much of the same behavior, displaying a large amount of star formation. (Photos: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team)

“Young stars, many of which are present in the lower right of the outer ring, energize the surrounding hydrocarbon dust, causing it to glow orange,” the Space Telescope Science Institute said in a news release. “On the other hand, the clearly defined dust between the core and the outer ring, which forms the ‘rays’ that inspire the galaxy’s name, is mostly silicate dust.”

For comparison, here is a Hubble image of the galaxy captured in 1996:

Located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, the galaxy looks like a wagon wheel.  The core of the galaxy is the bright object in the center of the image;  ray structures are strands of material that connect the core to the outer ring of young stars.  The galaxy's unusual configuration was created by a near-frontal collision with a smaller galaxy about 200 million years ago.  (Photos: via Curt Struck and Philip Appleton (Iowa State University), Kirk Borne (Hughes STX Corporation) and Ray Lucas (Space Telescope Science Institute) and NASA / ESA)

Located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, the galaxy looks like a wagon wheel. The core of the galaxy is the bright object in the center of the image; ray structures are strands of material that connect the core to the outer ring of young stars. The galaxy’s unusual configuration was created by a near-frontal collision with a smaller galaxy about 200 million years ago. (Photos: via Curt Struck and Philip Appleton (Iowa State University), Kirk Borne (Hughes STX Corporation) and Ray Lucas (Space Telescope Science Institute) and NASA / ESA)

Located 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, the galaxy looks like a wagon wheel. The core of the galaxy is the bright object in the center of the image; ray structures are strands of material that connect the core to the outer ring of young stars. The galaxy’s unusual configuration was created by a near-frontal collision with a smaller galaxy about 200 million years ago. (Photos: via Curt Struck and Philip Appleton (Iowa State University), Kirk Borne (Hughes STX Corporation) and Ray Lucas (Space Telescope Science Institute) and NASA / ESA)

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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