An extraordinary photo from the James Webb Space Telescope: the Wagon Wheel Galaxy

Paolo Virtuani

At a distance of 500 million light-years from us, its double-spoked ring, like a wheel, has remained a mystery to astronomers until now.

A few days after the James Webb Space Telescope (Jwst) is fully operational, it gives us an unusual new image with details far beyond those already excellent from the Hubble Space Telescope. This is the large Eso 350-40 galaxy, better known as the Wagon Wheel galaxy. It is located about 500 million light-years away, in the direction of the constellation Sculptor.

Galactic Collision

It was discovered in 1941 and is 150,000 light-years across, slightly larger than our own Milky Way. Jwst has revealed new details about star formation and the central black hole. Two other spiral galaxies can be seen next to the cartwheel. The strange spoked shape on the chariot likely originated from a collision with another smaller galaxy that happened millions of years ago. Two rings formed: one more central and shiny, and one more outer. Both expand from the center of the collision, forming what astronomers call galactic rings, an unusual structure compared to traditional spiral galaxies like the Milky Way. The bright central core contains dust at high temperatures and giant young star clusters. The outer ring, which took about 440 million years to expand, is dominated by supernovae and stars formed due to the shock wave of the expansion phase.

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Until now, the Chariotwheel galaxy has remained a mystery to astronomers due to its complex structure. In addition, a large amount of dust made it difficult to see the details even with the Hubble Space Telescope. But new tools aboard JWST have made it possible to see hidden details and solve many questions that have not yet been answered.

August 2, 2022 (modified August 2, 2022 | 6:11 pm)


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