One of the Most Colorful Composites of the Universe Highlights Galaxies 4.3 Billion Light-Years from Earth

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#astronomy #James Webb Space Telescope

A field of galaxies on the black background of space. In the middle is a collection of dozens of yellowish spiral and elliptical galaxies that form a foreground galaxy cluster. Among them are distorted linear features, which mostly appear to follow invisible concentric circles curving around the centre of the image. The linear features are created when the light of a background galaxy is bent and magnified through gravitational lensing. A variety of brightly coloured, red and blue galaxies of various shapes are scattered across the image, making it feel densely populated.

Galaxy cluster MACS0416. Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, J. Diego (Instituto de Física de Cantabria, Spain), J. D’Silva (U. Western Australia), A. Koekemoer (STScI), J. Summers & R. Windhorst (ASU), and H. Yan (U. Missouri)

The groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope and its predecessor the Hubble Space Telescope have collaborated on a new cosmic composite teeming with colorful galaxies. Using infrared observations from Webb and visible-light details from Hubble, astronomers stitched together an astonishing, panchromatic image of the MACS0416 cluster located approximately “4.3 billion light-years from Earth, meaning that the light from it that we see now left the cluster shortly after the formation of our solar system,” a release from the European Space Agency says. Our solar system is nearly 4.6 billion years old.

Both telescopes register wavelengths in black and white and in a manner that’s different from the way humans see light, so researchers assigned colors to galaxies to mimic our eyesight. “The bluest galaxies are relatively nearby and often show intense star formation, as best detected by Hubble, while the redder galaxies tend to be more distant, or else contain copious amounts of dust, as best detected by Webb,” the team says, noting that the image captures an exceptional range of wavelengths, from 0.4 to 5 microns. Intermediate galaxies are shown in green.

Because of gravitational lensing—this happens when an enormous celestial body, like the cluster shown, bends the path of light into a curved shape—this image of MACS0416 also magnifies light from additional galaxies even farther away, along with supernovae and individual stars. With its vivid, illuminating colors, the image is thought to be one of the most colorful depictions of the cosmos in existence. (via PetaPixel)

#astronomy #James Webb Space Telescope

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