See And Download The Webb Telescope’s Latest Images Of A Rare ‘Ring Galaxy’ In Jaw-Dropping 4K Detail

A rare “ring galaxy” has been captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. In the first official release of images since its debut collection in July and in the wake of science images of the Phantom Galaxy and of Jupiter this image (above) of the Cartwheel Galaxy has been made available in stunning 4K detail.

Available here as a 4685 x 4312 pixel, 20 megapixel image, it’s a composite of two images from the Webb telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). You can also explore a zoomable version online and see and download an annotated version.

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It’s also available to download as an image from MIRI, which looks like this:

This MIRI image is also available online as a zoomable version and as an annotated image.

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Are the Webb telescope’s images “real?” Yes—and using filters they are effectively moved up the electromagnetic spectrum from a part we can’t perceive into the visible light part that we can see.

What is the Cartwheel Galaxy?

About 500 million light-years away in the constellation of Sculptor—a small constellation in the southern hemisphere’s night sky—the Cartwheel Galaxy is known as both a lenticular galaxy and ring galaxy. It’s got a large disc, but no huge spiral arms like our own Milky Way (though you can still see what’s left of its spiral arms). It’s called a “ring” galaxy because it appears circular—and we get a face-on view.

About 100,000 light-years across, the Cartwheel Galaxy was formed after a smaller galaxy ripped through the middle of it, creating a shockwave and swirls of gas and dust that have gone on to produce new stars.

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What can we see in the images?

Those blue swirls are stars and clusters of stars while the edge of the Cartwheel Galaxy is the extent of the shockwave caused when that small galaxy plunged through its center.

The red streaks in the composite image are caused by glowing, hydrocarbon-rich dust.

You can also see another similar-looking galaxy in the top-left of the image as well as two other galaxies in the background.

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It’s the first time individual stars have been identified in the Cartwheel Galaxy.

For comparison, here’s the Hubble Space Telescope’s image of the Cartwheel galaxy, taken in 2010:

The images and download opportunities come in the wake of the incredible “Cosmic Cliffs” image, which can be downloaded in 123-megapixel quality. A combined image using data from both NIRCam and MIRI, it reveals previously invisible areas of star.

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What is MIRI?

MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) is a camera and a spectrograph that sees light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s MIRI that will likely give us most of the incredible better-than-Hubble wide-field astrophotography images.

What is NIRCam?

NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera) is one of four science instruments on board Webb. Responsible for doing a lot of the cutting-edge science, NIRCam can detect infrared light from the earliest stars and galaxies. It also has a coronagraph so it can block a star’s light, which helps in the search for planets orbiting nearby stars.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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