Last month, NASA released a batch of long-awaited, jaw-dropping images from its newest and most powerful space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). In unprecedented detail, pictures revealed distant wonders such as the Carina Nebula, the Southern Ring Nebula, and Stephan’s Quintet—a collection of five dazzling galaxies, some of which are actively colliding with each other.
In this video, Philip Appleton, a staff scientist at Caltech’s IPAC astronomy center, walks us through the new image of the quintet. Four of the five galaxies are gravitationally bound and make up a compact galaxy group located hundreds of millions of light-years away in the Pegasus constellation. At least three galaxies in this group are actively colliding with each other, producing shock waves that trigger new star formation.
Appleton and his colleagues have studied this turbulent region for nearly 20 years using other telescopes such as the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope, whose data archive is based at IPAC. Spitzer was managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) manages for NASA.
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