Hubble and James Webb get a colorful photo of the Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster

A variety of telescopes conduct observations at different wavelengths of the spectrum, revealing incredible details of celestial objects. Recently, thanks to the combined efforts of two Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, a spectacular image of a cluster of thousands of galaxies was obtained. It would be impossible to get anything similar with just one tool.

Panchromatic image of the galaxy cluster MACS0416, created by combining infrared images of the James Webb Space Telescope with data in the visible range obtained by the Hubble Observatory. Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The Hubble Telescope observes only in the optical range of electromagnetic waves, indicated in the image in blue and cyan.James Webb uses the infrared range, shown in shades of yellow and red. The green shades represent the parts of the spectrum visible by both telescopes. 

The MACS0416 cluster, located about 4.3 billion light-years from the Milky Way, actually consists of a pair of galactic clusters that are in the process of merging. Eventually, they will merge into a single giant object. Hubble has been studying this cluster for the past decade, looking for distant galaxies — a task that James Webb is now carrying out thanks to more powerful equipment.

Comparison of images of the MACS0416 galaxy cluster obtained separately by the Hubble telescope in the optical range (left) and the James Webb Telescope in the infrared (right). The total exposure time in the latter case was about 22 hours, compared to 122 hours of Hubble exposure. Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

“We’re calling MACS0416 the Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster, both because it’s so colorful and because of these flickering lights we find within it,” explained astronomer Haojing Yan from the University of Missouri.

Mysterious “Mothra”

In addition to aesthetic value, James Webb data allows us to study transients — objects that rapidly change brightness over time, for example, due to gravitational lensing. Another well-known representative of them is supernovae. In total, 14 similar objects were found in the image.

The cluster MACS0416, by its gravity, concentrates light from a background galaxy that existed about 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This galaxy contains a transient, which scientists have named “Mothra”. Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

But the most interesting was the object that scientists named “Mothra” in honor of the giant monster from the Japanese films about Godzilla — because of its “monster nature”. It is located in a galaxy that existed about 3 billion years after the Big Bang. In the picture, it looks like a thin red “thread” distorted by gravitational lensing and magnified 4,000 times. The most likely explanation for such a powerful magnification is that there is an additional “mini-lens” in front of the object, the exact nature of which remains unknown.

Earlier we reported on how the James Webb Telescope surpassed the Hubble record.

According to NASA

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