The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a new image of the Wheel Galaxy – along with two smaller companion galaxies – created by an intergalactic collision.
The orbiting observatory was launched last December and was recently released a complete set of new observationsincludes what is believed to be the “deepest” and most detailed photograph of the universe to date.
Latest observations of the Wheel Galaxy provided to scientists at NASA clues as to how the strange spectacle was actually conceived.
The researchers believe it looks a bit like a cart wheel because it was formed by “a violent event – a high-speed collision between a large spiral galaxy and an unlikely smaller galaxy. seen in this image”.
They added: “Clashes of galactic proportions cause a series of different, smaller intergalactic events involved; the Trolley Wheel is no exception.”
Its unusual shape features two clear rings, one bright inside and another colorful on the outside.
These rings are extending outward from the center of the galactic collision “like ripples in a pond after a rock is thrown at it”.
It is these distinctive features that have led astronomers to define the Wheel Galaxy as a ring galaxy, one of the rarest galactic structures we see from Earth.
The galaxy’s bright core – the center of the wheel – “contains a tremendous amount of hot dust with the brightest areas inhabited by massive young star clusters,” according to NASA.
“On the other hand, the outer ring, which has been expanding for about 440 million years, is dominated by star formation and supernovae. As this ring expands, it plunges into surrounding gas and triggers star formation.”