NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning image of the Wheel galaxy, revealing new details about its formation, shape and structure.
Images released by NASA on Tuesday show the Wheel Galaxy in unprecedented detail. This large, pink-spotted galaxy resembling a wagon wheel is in a “very brief phase” along with two spiral companion galaxies in the constellation Sculptor in the southern sky, some 500 million light-years from Earth.
This cosmic snapshot offers a new perspective on how the Wheel Galaxy has changed over billions of years and how it might evolve in the future. The shape and structure of the Wheel galaxy suggest it was created by an intergalactic collision “between a large spiral galaxy and a smaller galaxy,” which is not visible in the images, the researchers said.
The striking shape of the Milky Way is made up of a colorful outer ring and a bright inner ring, from which glowing spokes spiral. NASA explained that the rings expand outward from the collision center, “like ripples in a pond after a stone is thrown into it.” These unique features have led astronomers to classify the Wheel galaxy as a “ring galaxy,” which makes it even rarer.
According to NASA, the bright core of the Milky Way “contains a large amount of hot dust, and the brightest regions are home to large clusters of young stars.” “On the other hand, the outer ring, which has expanded for about 440 million years, is dominated by star formation and supernovae. As this ring expands, it burrows into the surrounding gas and initiates star formation.”
James Webb Space Telescope image