Download the latest Webb Telescope images of a rare ‘ring galaxy’ in 4K detail
The James Webb Space Telescope has captured images of a rare “ring galaxy”, which NASA and the European Space Agency have made available for download in stunning 4K detail.
The images of the galaxy, known as the Cartwheel Galaxy, are the first images to be released since Webb’s first collection in July and the images of the phantom galaxy and Jupiter that followed.
Available here as a 4685 x 4312 pixel, 20 megapixel image, it is 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 view and download an annotated version.
It is also available for download as an image from MIRI, which looks like this:
This MIRI image is also available online as a zoomable version and an annotated image.
Are the images from the Webb telescope “real?” Yes, and by using filters they are effectively moved up the electromagnetic spectrum from a part we cannot perceive into the visible light part we can see.
What is the Cartwheel Galaxy?
About 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor – a small constellation in the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky – the Cartwheel Galaxy is known as both a lenticular galaxy and a ring galaxy. It has a large disk, but not huge spiral arms like our own Milky Way (although you can still see what’s left of its spiral arms). It’s called a “ring” galaxy because it looks circular and we get a front view.
About 100,000 light-years in diameter, the Cartwheel galaxy formed after a smaller galaxy passed through its middle, creating a shock wave and whirlwinds of gas and dust that produced new stars.
What do we see in the pictures?
These blue swirls are stars and star clusters while the edge of the Cartwheel Galaxy is the extent of the shock wave caused when this small galaxy plunged into its center.
The red streaks in the composite image are caused by incandescent oil-rich dust.
You can also see another similar galaxy in the top left of the image as well as two other galaxies in the background.
This is the first time that individual stars have been identified in the Cartwheel galaxy.
For comparison, here’s the Hubble Space Telescope image of the Cartwheel galaxy, taken in 2010:
The images and download possibilities come in the wake of the incredible “Cosmic Cliffs” image, which can be downloaded in 123 megapixel quality. A combined image using data from NIRCam and MIRI, it reveals previously invisible star birth zones.
What is MIRI?
MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) is a camera and spectrograph that sees light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s MIRI that will probably give us most of the incredible wide-field astrophotography images that are better than Hubble.
What is NIRCam?
NIR Cam (Near Infrared Camera) is one of four scientific instruments aboard Webb. Responsible for much of the cutting edge science, NIRCam can detect infrared light from early stars and galaxies. It also has a coronagraph that allows it to block light from a star, making it easier to find planets orbiting nearby stars.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.