New images capture what happens when galaxies collide
Nasa’s James Webb telescope once again reveals the secrets of outer space...
image Instagram via @nasa
words Eve Walker
In a galaxy far, far away is… this! The James Webb Space Telescope is the gift that keeps giving, drip-feeding us spectacular images of outer space over the course of the summer so far. Most recently, the most powerful telescope ever launched into space has yielded new images of the Cartwheel Galaxy next to two smaller galaxies – formed as the result of an intergalactic collision.
The Cartwheel Galaxy is a type of "ring galaxy" which is one of the rarest galactic structures to still be visible from Earth, so it's a pretty big deal. It has a distinctive core made from gigantic star clusters and hot dust and ripples towards an outer ring made of star formations and supernovas. Pretty cool if you ask us!
While it feels like we've been living fo these new-age photos for some time now, it was only last month that Nasa dropped first images from the James Webb Space Telescope and well and truly put this new piece of tech on our radar. These first photos captured galaxies that show how everything was 13 billion years ago, and which they hope will help us understand the universe’s beginnings.
On 11 July, U.S President Joe Biden revealed one of the first full-colour images from the James Webb Space Telescope in an event at the White House, showcasing the sharpest and deepest infrared images of the distant universe in existence. The full set of images, also known as Webb’s First Deep Field, shows the twinkling galaxy cluster of SMACS 0723 with detail never seen before.
Thanks to the new telescope, thousands of ancient galaxies can be seen for the first time as well as quite faint objects, made clearer than ever with infrared. The $10 billion dollar spending and three decade-long manufacturing of this telescope appears to have been well worth the wait, and hefty price tag, as it revolutionises our understanding of the cosmos.
"Webb can see backwards in time just after the big bang by looking for galaxies that are so far away, the light has taken many billions of years to get from those galaxies to ourselves,” said Jonathan Gardner, the deputy senior project scientist at Nasa.
Bill Nelson, the administrator of Nasa, explained that “we are looking back more than 13 billion years”, which is pretty mind boggling. More images will be released soon that reach back even further, not far from the estimated time of the Big Bang.
This comes alongside more than a few exciting recent space discoveries and news. Earlier this year, Nasa released a freaky audio recording of a black hole, a photo of an ‘alien doorway’ on Mars, and attempts to make contact with extraterrestrial beings by sending nudes to space. There have also been recent studies suggesting that aliens could be closer to us than was previously thought, with experts suggesting they may be on planets with two suns or camping out in the Milky Way.
You can visit the “Where Is Webb?” tracker for more about the James Webb telescope’s current status.