Science and Exploration

Hubble’s View Of Galaxy Pair II ZW 96

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 12, 2022
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Hubble’s View Of Galaxy Pair II ZW 96
Hubble’s View Of Galaxy Pair II ZW 96

A merging galaxy pair cavort in this image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, an international mission led by NASA with its partners ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

This new Webb image of a pair of galaxies, known to astronomers as II ZW 96, was first previewed for Vice President Kamala Harris and French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to NASA Headquarters in Washington Wednesday, Nov. 30. Vice President Harris and President Macron also previewed a new composite image of the Pillars of Creation from Webb.

II ZW 96 is roughly 500 million light-years from Earth and lies in the constellation Delphinus, close to the celestial equator. As well as the wild swirl of the merging galaxies, a menagerie of background galaxies are dotted throughout the image.

The two galaxies are in the process of merging and as a result have a chaotic, disturbed shape. The bright cores of the two galaxies are connected by bright tendrils of star-forming regions, and the spiral arms of the lower galaxy have been twisted out of shape by the gravitational perturbation of the galaxy merger. It is these star-forming regions that made II ZW 96 such a tempting target for Webb; the galaxy pair is particularly bright at infrared wavelengths thanks to the presence of the star formation.

Image Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, L. Armus, A. Evans
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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.