James Webb captures a spectacular image of the merger of two galaxies

The galaxies are 500 million light years away, in the constellation of the Dolphin.


A pair of merging galaxies 500 million light-years away in the constellation Dolphin, known to astronomers as II ZW 96 , stars in this infrared image from the James Webb Space Telescope .

In addition to the wild whirlwind of merging galaxies , a collection of background galaxies is dotted throughout the image.

unraveling the image

The two galaxies are in the process of merging and, as a result, have a chaotic and disturbed shape. The bright nuclei of the two galaxies are connected by bright tendrils of star-forming regions, and the spiral arms of the lower galaxy have been deformed by the gravitational perturbation from the galaxy merger .

It is these star-forming regions that made II ZW 96 such a tempting target for James Webb ; The galaxy pair is particularly bright at infrared wavelengths thanks to the presence of star formation, the ESA reports.

This observation comes from a collection of measurements by Webb that delve into the details of galactic evolution, particularly in luminous near-infrared galaxies like II ZW 96 .

These galaxies , as the name suggests, are particularly bright at infrared wavelengths, with luminosities more than 100 billion times that of the Sun. An international team of astronomers proposed a study of complex galactic ecosystems, including merging galaxies in II ZW 96 , to put Webb to the test shortly after the telescope was commissioned.

His chosen targets have already been observed with ground-based telescopes and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, which will provide astronomers with insight into Webb’s ability to unravel the details of complex galactic environments.

The telescope captured this image with a pair of its state-of-the-art instruments; NIRCam, the near-infrared camera, and MIRI, the mid-infrared instrument. (Europe Press)