NASA’s James Webb Telescope Captures Extreme View of Merging Galaxies

NASA's James Webb Telescope Captures Extreme View of Merging Galaxies
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Now that we have a powerful lens pointing into the deepest regions of the universe, our definition of “surprise” has changed slightly when it comes to astrophotography.

It’s no longer surprising, really, when NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveal another Shiny, ancient piece of the cosmos. At this point, we know that we cannot expect less than the pioneering machine.

Instead, each time the telescope returns a amazing space image, now has more of a “JWST strikes again” feel. And yet, our jaws legitimately drop every time.

This kind of dissonant version of “surprise” has happened once again, to a pretty extreme degree. Last week, scientists presented JWST’s brilliant view of a cluster of galaxies merging around a massive black hole which hosts a rare quasar, also known as Incomprehensibly bright stream of light throwing from the chaotic center of the void.

There’s a lot going on here, I know. But the team behind the find think it could go even higher.

“We think something dramatic is about to happen in these systems,” said Andrey Vayner, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins and co-author of a study on the scene soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. said in a statement. For now, you can view a detailed summary of the discovery in a document. published in arXiv.


Artist’s concept of a galaxy with a bright quasar in the center.

NASA, ESA and J. Olmsted (STScI)

Especially fascinating about this portrait is that the quasar in question is considered an “extremely red” quasar, meaning that it is very far away from us and therefore physically embedded in a primitive region of space that is near the beginning of the times.

Essentially, because it requires weather for light to travel through space, every stream of cosmic light that reaches our eyes and our machines looks as it did a long time ago. Even the moonlight takes around 1.3 seconds to get to Earth, so when we look at the moon, we’re seeing it 1.3 seconds in the past.

More specifically with this quasar, scientists believe it took about 11.5 billion years for light from the object to reach Earth, which means we’re seeing it as it was 11.5 billion years ago. This also makes it, according to the team, one of the most powerful of its kind observed from such a gigantic distance (ie 11.5 billion light-years away).

“The galaxy is at this perfect time in its life, about to transform and look completely different in a few billion years,” Vayner said of the realm in which the quasar is anchored.

Analyzing a galactic oddity

In the colorful image provided by Vayner and other researchers, we’re looking at several things.

Each color in this image represents material moving at a different speed.

ESA/Webb, NASA and CSA, D. Wylezalek, A. Vayner and the Q3D team, N. Zakamska

On the left is a hubble space telescope view of the region studied by the team, and in the middle is a zoomed-in version of where the JWST focused. Look to the far right of this image, where four individually color-coded boxes are visible, and you’ll discuss different aspects of the JWST data broken down by speed.

The red matter moves away from us and the blue matter approaches us, for example.

This classification shows us how each of the galaxies involved in the spectacular merger behaves, including the one containing the extreme black hole and its accompanying red quasar, which is, in fact, the only one the team hoped to discover with the billionaire NASA dollar. instrument.

“What you see here is just a small subset of what’s in the data set,” Nadia L. Zakamska, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “There’s too much going on here, so we first highlight what’s really the biggest surprise. Every blob here is a baby galaxy merging with this mommy galaxy and the colors have different speeds and everything moves in an extremely complicated way.”

Now, says Zakamska, the team will begin to untangle the movements and improve our eyesight to a greater extent. However, we are already seeing much more incredible information than the team expected to begin with. Hubble and the Gemini-North telescope previously showed the possibility of a transitioning galaxy, but definitely didn’t hint at the swarm we can see with JWSTs. Impressive infrared equipment.

Towards the center, slightly to the southwest, is a bright circle representing Neptune.  Faint rings, also bright, are seen surrounding the orb.  To the northwest of this globe is a bright bluish six-pointed fixture that represents one of Neptune's moons.  Tons of places and swi

In another spectacular image taken by Webb’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), a handful of hundreds of background galaxies, varying in size and shape, appear alongside the Neptune system.


“With earlier images, we thought we saw hints that the galaxy was possibly interacting with other galaxies en route to the merger because their shapes are distorted in the process,” Zakamska said. “But after we got the data from Webb, I said, ‘I have no idea what we’re looking at here, what all this is!’ We spent several weeks looking and looking at these images.”

Very soon, it became clear that JWST was showing us at least three separate galaxies that were moving incredibly fast, the team said. They even believe this could mark one of the densest known areas of galaxy formation in the early universe.


An artist’s impression of the quasar P172+18, which is associated with a black hole 300 times more massive than the sun.

ESO/M. kornmesser

Everything about this complex image is fascinating. We have the black hole, which Zakamska calls a “monster,” a very weird stream of light coming out of that black hole, and a herd of galaxies on a collision course, all seen as they were. billions of years in the past.

So dare I say it? The JWST strikes again, offering us an extremely precious cosmic vignette. Wow, jaw dropped.

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