It’s time to take a deep dive into the universe.
A new video released by the James Webb Space Telescope collaboration shows an epic zoom-in through stars and other objects to land upon a spectacular galaxy called the Cartwheel Galaxy.
Webb’s infrared investigations are allowing scientists to peer through obscuring dust in the region to see starbirth, along with clutches of newborn stars around a central supermassive black hole.
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“Webb’s observations capture Cartwheel in a very transitory stage,” European Space Agency (ESA) officials wrote in a caption with the video, posted on YouTube (opens in new tab) on Monday (Aug. 8).
The Cartwheel is roughly 500 million light-years from our planet and is termed a ring galaxy, which is a rare kind of galaxy. Scientists think the Cartwheel used to be a spiral galaxy, similar to our Milky Way, but a crash roughly 700 million or 800 million years ago altered its future.
The collision, likely with a smaller galaxy, created two rings. The outer ring is moving away dust and gas in the galactic region, which is triggering star formation. The other ring surrounds the galaxy itself.
“The form that the Cartwheel Galaxy will eventually take, given these two competing forces, is still a mystery,” ESA officials wrote. “However, this snapshot provides perspective on what happened to the galaxy in the past and what it will do in the future.”
Webb has already reached far into the universe, even though the observatory has only been fully operational for a few weeks. The $10 billion telescope launched Dec. 25, 2021, and wrapped up its commissioning period last month.
Its images so far include a view of the farthest star we’ve seen to date (it’s called Earendel, a “Lord of the Rings” reference), a haunting “Phantom Galaxy” and the deepest view of the universe we’ve ever seen.