The James Webb Space Telescope has peered through time and huge amounts of dust to capture a new image of the Cartwheel Galaxy, revealing the spinning ring of color in unprecedented clarity, NASA and the European Space Agency said Tuesday.
Located around 500 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Sculptor, the Cartwheel gained its shape during a spectacular head-on collision between two galaxies.
The impact sent two rings expanding from the galaxy’s center, “like ripples in a pond after a stone is tossed into it,” NASA and the ESA said in a joint statement. A smaller white ring remains closer to the galaxy’s center, while the outer ring, with its spokes of color, has been expanding into the universe for around 440 million years, the statement added.
As the outer ring expands it runs into gas, sparking the formation of new stars.