June 4, 2023

James Webb records ‘extremely bright’ cosmic collision

Some pairs of spiral galaxies have been captured in an “extremely bright” cosmic collision by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Discovery was announced by NASAon Monday the 17th, and was rated brighter than a trillion suns.

NASA has released an image of the system called Arp 220, which is about 250 million light-years from Earth. This ultra-bright infrared galaxy, while the Milky Way “has a more modest luminosity, about 10 billion suns.”

On the “ultraluminous” cosmic collision

700 million years ago, two spiral galaxies that formed the system collided, resulting in a massive explosion of star formation. This phenomenon led to the formation of 200 large star clusters, which are found in a region about 5,000 light-years across (5% the diameter of the Milky Way). The amount of gas in this small region equals all the gas in our Milky Way galaxy.

Previous observations revealed about 100 supernova remnants within a region less than 500 light-years across. The Hubble telescope has detected the cores of the parent galaxies, separated by a distance of 1,200 light-years.

In the image, you can see the faint tidal tails, or material pulled from galaxies by gravity, in blue. Each of the cores contains a rotating ring of star formation that emits infrared light. This light creates diffraction peaks, which is the feature that dominates this image.