The Cartwheel Galaxy is James Webb Space Telescope's latest capture

On this week's Cosmic Sense: Webb's latest snapshot, the Cartwheel Galaxy.
The Cartwheel galaxy
The Cartwheel galaxy Photo credit NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Scientists at NASA revealed James Webb Space Telescope's latest capture earlier this week, a massive galaxy located 500 million light-years away from Earth known as the Cartwheel Galaxy.


The newly released photos follow the highly-anticipated reveal of Webb's first images just last month that grabbed the attention of scientists worldwide. The photos showed the true power of the nearly $10 billion observatory and included the 'deepest image ever taken of our universe.'

Webb's newest target is the Cartwheel Galaxy, a chaotic ring galaxy that houses a stellar nursery.

The galaxy is appropriately named as its shape closely resembles a wheel equipped with light-years long spokes and two rings on the interior and exterior.

Researchers have had their eyes on this galaxy for decades and even captured its massive spokes with the Hubble telescope in 1995 and more recently in 2018.

The Cartwheel Galaxy captured by Hubble (2018)
The Cartwheel Galaxy captured by Hubble (2018) Photo credit NASA/ESA

Now, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists are able to get a much more in-depth and detailed look at the galaxies structure and makeup. The galaxy is surrounded by dust which obscures the view from our perspective. Webb's Near-Infrared Camera can observe more than just visible light and allows us to peer through the dust and reveals what's beyond it.

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team
The Cartwheel Galaxy photographed with Webb's MIRI instrument Photo credit NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

The Cartwheel Galaxy's origin is the result of an intense collision between two spiral galaxies at unimaginably high speeds. The chaotic formation of this galaxy is what ultimately caused its ring-like appearance, a relatively rare galactical shape.

At its core, the galaxy houses enormous young star clusters shrouded in massive amounts of hot dust. The outer ring is home to a stellar nursery caused by its own expansion which plows into the surrounding gas, triggering the formation of young stars, according to NASA.

This information, though imaged before, was made much more evident with Webb's ability to capture infrared light. The galaxy is in a 'transitory stage,' and was once much like the Milky Way. The new observations made by Webb give us a better understanding of the Cartwheel galaxy's past, present, and future.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI