New images from the James Webb Space Telescope captured the irregular galaxy NGC 6822, showing it has unusually low metallicity.
NASA says this means the galactic neighbor doesn’t have many elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.
“Before the first generation of stars, everything had very low metallicity — stars had not yet created heavier elements. Studying a contemporary object with low metallicity, like this galaxy, can help us understand more about stars and dust in the early universe,” the Webb team explained.
One image was taken by the Near-InfraRed Camera, or NIRCam, and another by the Mid-InfraRed Instrument, or MIRI. A third image, combines the views.
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This image shows the irregular galaxy NGC 6822, which was observed by the Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) mounted on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, M. Meixner)
NIRCam is able to peer through dust and gas, revealing countless dazzling stars, while MIRI focuses on the galactic dust.
In the NIRCam image, bright stars are shown in pale blue and cyan – colors that the European Space Agency says are assigned to the shortest wavelengths of light the instrument is able to detect.
A bright blue orb to the left of the red glass is a prominent globular cluster with many stars.
Scaled images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-InfraRed Camera (left) and Mid-InfraRed Instrument (right) of the irregular galaxy NGC 6822 (Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, M. Meixner)
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In the MIRI image, blue gas indicates light emitted by organic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which play a critical role in the formation of stars and planets.
Cyan there indicates cooler patches of dust, while the warmer dust is more orange and distant galaxies beyond NGC 6682 are also orange.
GREENBELT, MD – NOVEMBER 2: A technician stands next to the James Webb Space Telescope during assembly November 2, 2016, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. ((Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images))
Closer galaxies are shown in green, with MIRI picking out light-emitting dust.
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Bright red and magenta indicates active areas of star formation within the galaxy.
“With so many stars, supernova explosions are routine, and an amazing example of a supernova remnant is visible in this image: a red ring just below the center,” the agency said.