The James Webb Telescope captured two galaxies merging together to form one enormous “smash-up” brighter than a trillion suns. It is, in fact, an infrared capture of the birth of a star.
Catchily known as Arp 220, this spiral of two galaxies was captured by Webb’s onboard Near Infrared camera, the NIRCam, and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The light is so bright in the centre it appears as a powerful starburst of light.
Located 250 million light-years away in the constellation of Serpens, the Serpent, Arp 220 is the 220th object in Halton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.
According to NASA, this collision of the two spiral galaxies began about 700 million years ago. “It sparked an enormous burst of star formation. About 200 huge star clusters reside in a packed, dusty region about 5,000 light-years across (about 5 per cent of the Milky Way’s diameter). The amount of gas in this tiny region is equal to all of the gas in the entire Milky Way galaxy,” the post says.
The James Webb Telescope has been in operation since December 2021 and has been sending back spectacularly detailed images of deep space ever since, like this one of Uranus.