NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope is living up to the hype.
Since its first photos dropped in July, the hotly-anticipated orbital observatory has shown the world stunning looks of faraway galaxies, twinkling star nurseries, dying stars, and once-hidden black holes. The latest official photo is no exception.
On Tuesday, the European Space Agency (one of NASA’s partners for the Webb mission) released an image of a rare ring galaxy, dubbed the Cartwheel Galaxy, taken by Webb. The pic revealed stunning details about the celestial body’s central black hole and the stars being born inside of it.
While the galaxy, which is roughly 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation, has been spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope before, cosmic dust obscured much of it from the visible-light telescope. Since Webb uses infrared and near-infrared imaging, though, it’s able to peer past all the debris to take a closer look at the Cartwheel Galaxy.
The image reveals that the galaxy is in a transition phase. Researchers believe that it once resembled a typical spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. However, it experienced an intergalactic collision with a smaller galaxy (not seen in the photo), which resulted in its unusual and rare shape, as well as its inner and outer rings that ripple outward from the middle of the collision.
In a press release, ESA stated that Webb gives researchers a look into the current state of the Cartwheel Galaxy, which could give indications into how it might evolve in the future. So keep your eyes peeled for more jaw-dropping insights—and photos—from the mighty James Webb Space Telescope in the coming years.