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Home SCIENCE JWST has captured two galaxies colliding with each other and causing starbursts

JWST has captured two galaxies colliding with each other and causing starbursts

Two bright galaxies 275 million light-years away collide and spur star formation in a striking new image from the James Webb Space Telescope.


3 August 2022

two galaxies collide

NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI./R. Colombari

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has captured the collision of two galaxies. In the midst of this cosmic clash, researchers have found something unexpected: There does not appear to be an active supermassive black hole in either galaxy.

The galaxy pair, called IC 1623 or VV 114, is about 275 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Cetus. lee armus at the California Institute of Technology and colleagues observed them with JWST as part of a campaign to detect four relatively nearby bright galaxy mergers and figure out how they work.

“A merger brings about dramatic changes in the shape and content of the galaxy and pretty much everything, so we really need to understand this process to figure out how galaxies evolve,” he says. viviana at the University of California, Irvine, part of the team conducting this research.

When two galaxies orbit each other and collide, they break off huge streams of material and create massive shock waves that pass through both galaxies. Both processes are highlighted in the red spots in this image, which are dust-shrouded star-forming regions. Most likely, they were stimulated into activity by shock waves.

Almost all massive galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center, and the researchers expect the black holes in merging galaxies to be relatively active, gobbling up gas from their surroundings and emitting huge amounts of radiation in the process. But when U and his colleagues began to analyze the data from IC 1623, they found no signs of active black holes.

“These mergers usually irritate things and cause these black holes to get a lot of gas and then they get excited and things get interesting, but we don’t see that here,” Armus says. “We might have to look a little more, they don’t always get up and say hello.” One or two supermassive black holes may simply be unexpectedly dormant or hidden deep within colliding galaxies.

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