Star lab

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One of the first sights that NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope observed was Stephan’s Quintet, a cluster of five galaxies in the constellation Pegasus.

This picture, the biggest produced by the telescope so far, is a composite of about 1000 images. If you printed it out at its actual size, it would be about 700 kilometres wide.

Scientists hope that looking at Stephan’s Quintet this closely will teach us more about how stars are formed by galaxies crashing into or moving past each other.

The left-most galaxy, NGC 7320, is nearest to us—40 million lightyears away—and so it appears in the most detail. The other four galaxies are about 290 million lightyears away. One of them, NGC 7318B, is smashing through the centre of the cluster, while the top galaxy, NGC 7319, has a supermassive black hole at its centre that’s 24 million times as big as the sun.

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