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Stunning James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory images reveal cosmic secrets

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NASA combined X-ray data from its Chandra X-Ray Observatory with infrared data from the James Webb Space Telescope to create stunning new composite images it released today — showing the capabilities of both instruments.

James Webb of the space agency, which released its first images worldwide in July, has always intended to collaborate with NASA’s other telescopes and observatories — both on the ground and in space.

The newly released images show Webb’s earliest observations, including Stephens Quintet, the Cartwheel Galaxy, SMACS 0723..3-7327 and the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula.

NASA’s Chandra is specially designed to capture X-rays from extremely hot regions of the universe. With Chandra’s combined data, higher energy processes can be seen that are not visible in James Webb’s infrared view.

James Webb’s primary mirror intercepts red and infrared light traveling through space and reflects it off a smaller secondary mirror. The secondary mirror then directs the light to the scientific instruments where it is recorded.

The four galaxies in Stephan's Quintet (above) undergo an intricate dance choreographed by gravity

The four galaxies in Stephan’s Quintet (above) undergo an intricate dance choreographed by gravity

Stephan’s Quintet

The four galaxies in Stephan’s Quintet undergo an intricate dance choreographed by gravity.

“The Webb image (red, orange, yellow, green, blue) of this object contains never-before-seen details of the results of these interactions, including sweeping gas tails and bursts of star formation,” explains NASA.

“The Chandra data (light blue) from this system has revealed a shock wave that heats gas to tens of millions of degrees as one of the galaxies passes through the other at speeds of about 2 million miles per hour.”

This new composite also includes infrared data from NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope.

The Cartwheel galaxy (above) gets its shape from a collision with another smaller galaxy about 100 million years ago

The Cartwheel galaxy (above) gets its shape from a collision with another smaller galaxy about 100 million years ago

The Cartwheel galaxy (above) gets its shape from a collision with another smaller galaxy about 100 million years ago

cartwheel system

The Cartwheel galaxy gets its shape from a collision with another smaller galaxy about 100 million years ago.

“As this smaller galaxy smashed through the Cartwheel, it caused star formation to appear around an outer ring and elsewhere in the galaxy,” NASA said in a blog post.

According to the US space agency, X-rays seen by Chandra (blue and purple) come from superheated gas, individual exploded stars and neutron stars, and black holes pulling material from companion stars.

Webb’s infrared image (red, orange, yellow, green, blue) shows the Cartwheel galaxy plus two smaller companion galaxies — not part of the collision — against a backdrop of much more distant galactic cousins.

Webb data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, located about 4.2 billion light-years away and containing hundreds of individual galaxies

Webb data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, located about 4.2 billion light-years away and containing hundreds of individual galaxies

Webb data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, located about 4.2 billion light-years away and containing hundreds of individual galaxies

SMACS 0723.3-7327

Webb data shows the galaxy cluster SMACS J0723, located about 4.2 billion light-years away and containing hundreds of individual galaxies.

‘However, clusters of galaxies contain much more than their galaxies alone. Some of the largest structures in the universe, they are filled with huge reservoirs of superheated gas that can only be seen in X-ray light,” NASA notes.

‘In this image, the Chandra data shows (blue) gas with temperatures in the tens of millions of degrees, with a total mass of about 100 trillion times that of the Sun, several times the mass of all the galaxies in the cluster. Invisible dark matter makes up an even larger proportion of the total mass in the cluster,” explains the space agency.

Chandra's data from the 'Cosmic Cliffs' (pink) reveals more than a dozen individual X-ray sources (see above)

Chandra's data from the 'Cosmic Cliffs' (pink) reveals more than a dozen individual X-ray sources (see above)

Chandra’s data from the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ (pink) reveals more than a dozen individual X-ray sources (see above)

NGC 3324, The Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula

Chandra’s data from the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ (pink) reveals more than a dozen individual X-ray sources.

These are usually stars that are in the outer region of a star cluster in the Carina Nebula and are between 1 and 2 million years old, which is very young in stellar terms.

Young stars are much brighter in X-rays than old stars, making X-rays an ideal way to distinguish stars in the Carina Nebula from the many stars of different ages in our Milky Way Galaxy along our line of sight to the nebula.

The diffused X-rays in the top half of the image likely come from hot gas from the three hottest, most massive stars in the cluster. They are all outside the field of view of the Webb image. The Webb image uses the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, and blue.

The Chandra orbits above Earth at an elevation of 86,500 miles (139,000 km), and the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts is home to the center that operates the satellite, processes the data and distributes it to scientists around the world for analysis.

NASA’s James Webb began transmitting his first image this summer and is expected to provide scientists with many years of discoveries about our universe’s earliest moments — just after the Big Bang.

The newly released images show (clockwise, from top left): Stephens Quintet, the Cartwheel Galaxy, the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula, and SMACS 0723..3-7327

The newly released images show (clockwise, from top left): Stephens Quintet, the Cartwheel Galaxy, the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula, and SMACS 0723..3-7327

The newly released images show (clockwise, from top left): Stephens Quintet, the Cartwheel Galaxy, the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula, and SMACS 0723..3-7327

The James Webb telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope is designed to detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies

The James Webb telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born in the early Universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and to observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The massive telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is thought to be a successor to the orbiting Hubble space telescope

The James Webb telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).

It is the world’s largest and most powerful orbital space telescope, capable of looking back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.

The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, as the two will be working together for a while.

The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 via the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It orbits the Earth at a speed of about 27,300 km/h in low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 340 miles.