A dazzling new image produced using the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed one of the most detailed views of the universe to date, NASA announced. announcement.
Created by combining infrared data taken by Webb and visible light observations collected by Hubble, the resulting image shows a distant pair of galaxy clusters colliding across a range of light wavelengths so vast it appears sparkle with colors.
The galaxy clusters, which scientists expect will combine to form an even larger cluster, are located about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, according to NASA. Although technically called MACS0416, experts involved in the massive study colloquially named the collection of celestial objects the “Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster” due to its distinctly polychromatic appearance.
“We call MACS0416 the Christmas tree galaxy cluster, both because it is so colorful and because of the flickering lights we find there. We can see transients everywhere,” said Haojing Yan, astronomer and professor at the University of Missouri. the lead author of a paper examining the results of Webb and Hubble’s joint galactic study, said in a statement.
The announcement itself was accompanied by a handful of images of the Christmas Tree Cluster, one of which shows a particularly enlarged background galaxy, with a star nicknamed “Mothra” , which scientists believe existed about 3 billion years after the big bang, or about 11 billion years. There is. For comparison, our solar system’s Sun formed about 4.6 billion years ago, around the same time as Earth.
“Mothra” is one of 14 transients (objects in space whose brightness varies over time) identified in the MACS0416 study. Discovering transients in distant galaxies was one of the research team’s main goals when they decided to combine observations from different telescopes, NASA said.
The galaxy clusters seen in the new images were among the first in a series of very deep views of the universe that NASA called “unprecedented.” They were initially identified through a Hubble program called Frontier Fields, launched in 2014, and eventually studied more thoroughly through Webb’s relatively more powerful deep space observation capabilities, later developed.
“We’re building on Hubble’s legacy by pushing toward greater distances and fainter objects,” said Rogier Windhorst, an astronomer at Arizona State University. Windhorst was the principal investigator of the Prime Extragalactic Areas for Reionization and Lensing Science, or PEARLS, program, which dealt with the Webb observations of MACS0416.
“The big picture only becomes clear when you combine the Webb data with the Hubble data,” Windhorst said.
In the images, space objects coded in blue represent the shortest wavelengths observed in the study, which were typically taken by Hubble, while those coded in red represent the longest wavelengths, typically taken by Hubble. by Webb. NASA said the coloring hints at the distances of the galaxies observed in the survey, with the bluer galaxies considered relatively close and the redder galaxies further away. Some galaxies that appear red in images “contain large amounts of cosmic dust that tend to absorb the bluer colors of starlight,” NASA said.