Dance of merging galaxies captured in new Webb telescope image

Dance of merging galaxies captured in new Webb telescope image

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The beautiful chaos of two merging galaxies shines in the latest image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope.

Vice President Kamala Harris and French President Emmanuel Macron viewed the new Webb image, along with a recomposed of the Pillars of Creation captured by the space observatory during a visit to NASA headquarters in Washington on Wednesday.

The Webb telescope, designed for observing dim, distant galaxies and other worldsis an international mission between NASA and its partners, the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency.

The pair of galaxies, known as II ZW 96, is located about 500 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Delphinus. Dots of light in the background of the image represent other distant galaxies.

The swirling shape of the two galaxies was created as they began to merge, distorting their individual shapes. Galactic mergers happen when two or more galaxies collide in space.

Bright regions where stars are being born glow in the center of the frame, while the spiral arms of the lower galaxy are twisted by the gravitational pull of the merger.

Stars form when clouds of gas and dust collapse in galaxies. When galaxies merge, more star formation is triggered — and astronomers want to know why.

The luminous regions of star births are of interest to astronomers using Webb because they appear even brighter when viewed in infrared light.

While infrared is invisible to the human eye, Webb allows it to spy on previously unseen aspects of the universe.

Webb’s near-infrared camera and mid-infrared instrument were both used to capture the new image.

Astronomers use the observatory to study how galaxies evolve and, among other things, why luminous infrared galaxies like II ZW 96 shine brightly in infrared light, reaching a luminosity more than 100 billion times that of our sun.

Researchers have focused Webb’s instruments on merging galaxies, including II ZW 96, to pick out fine details and compare the images to those previously taken by ground-based telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope. Together, the observations could provide a more complete picture of how galaxies change over time.



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