Our great telescopes are designed to complement each other, as shown last week when both Webb and Hubble captured the aftermath of NASA’s DART mission to change the orbit of an asteroid.
Further proof of that comes this week with the public release of four new composite images that combine data from both the James Webb Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra Telescope.
While the former works in infrared light, the latter detects x-rays. Both are invisible to the human eye, so these images use filters that assign colors to different wavelengths of light to bring them back into human vision.
The four images are from the first batch or two released after Webb’s “first light” earlier this year. They include his ground-breaking observations of a cluster of galaxies (SMACS J0723), a galaxy group (Stefan’s Quintet), a star-forming nebula (Carina), and a galaxy (the Cartwheel).
In recent weeks Chandra has been pointed at the same objects to collect data in the X-ray wavelengths of light, which capture higher-energy processes than the infrared view from Webb.
1. Stephan’s Quintet
You’ve probably seen this image (main article image, top) before, but not like this. Look in the center and you will see a new layer of light blue captured by the Chandra telescope. This data reveals a shockwave of superheated gas caused by one of the galaxies passing through the others at two million miles per hour.
2. The Cartwheel galaxy
Chandra’s contribution to this new composite image (above) of the Cartwheel galaxy can be seen in the all-new blue and purple colors, which reveal the presence of superheated gas, individual exploding stars, neutron stars and black holes that can be seen pulling material from other stars.
3. Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula
Perhaps the most iconic of all the images the Webb telescope has taken so far, this new composite image of the Carina nebula (above), includes a new layer of pink data from Chandra. There are around a dozen pink areas in this new image which pinpoint the location of very young stars. That’s because newborn stars are much brighter in x-ray wavelengths of light than old stars.
It’s a great example of how different wavelengths of light can help reveal different processes going on in regions of space previously imaged multiple times by other telescopes.
4. SMACS J0723 galaxy cluster
This image (above) is perhaps the most important in astronomy for some years given that it has helped astronomers find some of the oldest stars and galaxies ever seen. This new composite from Chandra and Webb reveals the former’s blue layer of hot gas in the center of this galaxy cluster.
As astronomers point the Webb telescope at more and more objects expect a lot more collaborations with both Chandra and the Hubble space telescope.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.