A new image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals the Cartwheel Galaxy in stunning detail. The image, NASA said, offers new details about star formation and the galaxy’s central black hole. Pictured alongside two smaller companion galaxies, the Cartwheel Galaxy is located about 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation. Its wagon-wheel-esque appearance is the aftermath of a collision between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy that is not pictured. Because of the colorful inner and outer rings expanding from the center, astronomers call this a “ring galaxy.”
At its core: hot dust and star clusters.
The outside ring has expanded for 440 million years and is dominated by star formation and supernovas. The Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) imager looks in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns. It sees wavelengths of light that can reveal even more stars.
While the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has previously looked at the Cartwheel, dust obscured its view. “NIRCam also reveals the difference between the smooth distribution or shape of the older star populations and dense dust in the core compared to the clumpy shapes associated with the younger star populations outside of it,” the agency said in a release with the image. The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) reveals regions in the Cartwheel Galaxy that form the spiraling spokes much more prominently.