December 2, 2023

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Stunning images from the James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory reveal cosmic secrets

The four galaxies within Stefan's Pentagram (above) undergo an intricate dance designed by gravity

NASA combined X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory with infrared data from the James Webb Space Telescope to create fascinating new composite images released today – showcasing the capabilities of both instruments.

The goal of the James Webb Space Agency, which released its first globally acclaimed images in July, has always been to work in partnership with other NASA telescopes and observatories — both on Earth and in space.

Newly released images show Webb’s first observations, including Stephens Quintet, Cartwheel Galaxy, SMACS 0723..3-7327, and the cosmic slopes of the Carina Nebula.

Chandra from NASA has been specifically designed to capture X-ray emissions from extremely hot regions of the universe. With data collected from Chandra, an invisible higher energy process can be seen in James Webb’s infrared view.

James Webb’s primary mirror intercepts red and infrared light traveling through space and reflects it onto a smaller secondary mirror. The secondary mirror then directs the light to the scientific instruments where it is recorded.

The four galaxies within Stefan’s Pentagram (above) undergo an intricate dance designed by gravity

Stephan quintet

The four galaxies within Stefan’s Pentagram go through an intricate gravitational dance.

“Web image (red, orange, yellow, green, and blue) of this object contains unprecedented detail of the results of these interactions, including gas-sweeping tails and bursts of star formation,” NASA explains.

Chandra data (in light blue) for this system revealed a shock wave that heats the gas to tens of millions of degrees, as one galaxy passes through the other at a speed of about two million miles per hour.

This new composite also includes infrared data from NASA’s now retired Spitzer Space Telescope.

cart wheel galaxy

The Cartwell Wheel Galaxy got its shape from a collision with another smaller galaxy about 100 million years ago.

“When this smaller galaxy pierced the Kartwell wheel, it caused stars to form around an outer ring and elsewhere throughout the galaxy,” NASA stated in a blog post.

According to the US space agency, the X-rays seen by Chandra (blue and purple) come from superheated gas, individual exploding stars, neutron stars and black holes pulling material from companion stars.

Webb’s infrared view (red, orange, yellow, green, and blue) shows the Cartwheel galaxy as well as two smaller companion galaxies—not part of the collision—against the background of many of the nearest distant galaxies.

Web data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, located about 4.2 billion light-years away, and containing hundreds of individual galaxies.

Web data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, located about 4.2 billion light-years away, and containing hundreds of individual galaxies.

SMACS 0723.3-7327

Web data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, located about 4.2 billion light-years away, and containing hundreds of individual galaxies.

However, clusters of galaxies contain much more than their own galaxies alone. As some of the largest structures in the universe, they are filled with huge reservoirs of heated gas that are only seen in X-ray light, NASA Notes.

In this image, Chandra data (in blue) reveals gas with a temperature of tens of millions of degrees, with a total mass of about 100 trillion times the mass of the Sun, several times higher than the mass of all galaxies in the cluster. The space agency explains that invisible dark matter makes up a larger portion of the cluster’s total mass.

NGC 3324, Cosmic Slopes of the Carina Nebula

The Chandra data for ‘cosmic cliffs’ (in pink) reveal more than a dozen individual X-ray sources.

These are mostly stars located in the outer region of a star cluster in the Carina Nebula and are between 1 and 2 million years old, and they are very young in stellar terms.

Young stars are brighter in X-rays than older stars, making X-ray studies an ideal way to distinguish stars in the Carina Nebula from the many stars of different ages from our Milky Way along our line of sight to the nebula.

The diffuse X-ray emission in the upper half of the image likely comes from hot gas from the three hottest and most massive stars in the star cluster. All are outside the field of view of the Webb image. Webb’s image uses the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, and blue.

Chandra orbits above Earth at an altitude of 86,500 miles (139,000 km) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, hosts the center that operates the satellite, processes the data, and distributes it to scientists around the world for analysis.

NASA’s James Webb began sending out his first image this summer and is expected to provide scientists with many years of discoveries regarding the first moments of our universe – just after the Big Bang.

James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope built to detect light from the oldest stars and galaxies

The James Webb Telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unlock the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look at the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The huge telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is considered a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have a temperature of about 40 K – about minus 387 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 233 degrees Celsius).

It is the largest and most powerful orbiting space telescope in the world, capable of looking back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.

The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, as the two will be working alongside each other for a while.

The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It orbits the Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour (27,300 kilometers per hour) in low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 340 miles.