Yes, it’s technically only November. But that doesn’t mean astronomers can’t start getting in the spirit of the holiday season!
They’re putting up the Christmas Tree early, thanks to a joint-present from NASA’s James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes.
The striking image, dubbed the Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster, combines visible light from Hubble and infrared light detected by JWST to create one of the most comprehensive views of the universe taken yet.
It showcases a galaxy cluster, called MACS0416, about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth.
“We’re calling MACS0416 the Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster, both because it’s so colourful and because of these flickering lights we find within it,” says astronomer Dr Haojing Yan of the University of Missouri in the US.
Yan is the lead author of one of two papers describing the scientific results. The paper has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
The cluster is able to magnify the light from more distant background galaxies, due to gravitational lensing. As a result, astronomers were able to identify magnified supernovae and even very highly magnified individual stars in the image.
“The JWST is discovering a large number of transient objects, mostly supernovae, in the universe,” adds co-author Dr Lifan Wang, an astronomer from Texas A&M University in the US.
“Not only it is finding supernovae, it has also found stars in faraway galaxies that are magnified by the gravitational field of nearby foreground galaxies.”
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