This image, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, shows a merging galaxy pair known as II ZW 96 dancing together.
Credits: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, L. Armus, A. Evans
November 30, 2022
II ZW 96 is a pair of merging galaxies that is 500 million light-years away from Earth and is located near the celestial equator in the constellation Delphinus. The image contains a variety of background galaxies in addition to the ferocious swirl of the merging galaxies.
The James Webb Telescope is one of the most important observatories for space science in the world. Webb will investigate the mystifying architecture and origins of our cosmos and our part in it while also looking beyond our solar system to faraway planets surrounding other stars. The European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency are partners in the international Webb program, which is run by NASA.
The two galaxies have a disorganised, chaotic form because they are merging. The spiral arms of the lower galaxy have been bent out of shape by the gravitational perturbation of the galaxy merger, and the brilliant centres of the two galaxies are joined by bright tendrils of star-forming areas. These star-forming areas are what attracted Webb to II ZW 96; the presence of the star-forming regions makes the galaxy pair very luminous at infrared wavelengths.
This observation comes from a group of Webb observations exploring the finer points of galaxy evolution, particularly in neighboring Luminous Infrared Galaxies like II ZW 96. As their name implies, these galaxies have luminosities that are more than 100 billion times greater than the Sun, making them especially luminous at infrared wavelengths. Soon after Webb was placed into operation, an international team of astronomers proposed a study of intricate galactic ecosystems, such as the merging galaxies in II ZW 96. The Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have already surveyed the targets they have picked, giving scientists a better understanding of Webb's capacity to decipher the minutiae of intricate galactic settings.