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JWST Reveals Nearby Dwarf Galaxy In Exquisite Detail

Astronomers have released some exciting comparative observations of a nearby galaxy.

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockNov 10 2022, 12:35 UTC
the galaxy looks like a fuzzy island of stars in front of the darker sky filled with galaxies.
The lonely galaxy, known as Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte, as seen from the Very Large Telescope. Image credit: ESO

The Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte (WLM) is a small dwarf galaxy at the edge of the Local Group, the name for the family of galaxies that include the Milky Way and Andromeda. This galaxy sits away from the major players of the Local Group, and it is an interesting object of study. New JWST observations show just how good the telescope is at detailing such an object.

The Spitzer Infrared Space telescope has produced incredible science over its many years of operation. And, it seems like it walked so its successor could run. JWST is a fantastic instrument. In the shared comparison image, focusing on a specific portion of this galaxy, individual stars are clearly visible, and even distant galaxies lying well beyond the WLM can be seen.

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On the left the image from spitzer looks unfocused and while individuals onjects are visible their edges are not well defined. The JWST image on the right is instead perfectly clear
A portion of WLM as seen by Spitzer and by JWST across similar near-Infrared wavelengths. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and Kristen McQuinn (Rutgers University). Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI).


The extraordinary work is not just an excuse for a pretty picture. It will allow astronomers to understand the evolution of stars in both the local and distant universe. Dwarf galaxies can be a time capsule for what happened billions of years ago.

“The main science focus is to reconstruct the star formation history of this galaxy. Low-mass stars can live for billions of years, which means that some of the stars that we see in WLM today formed in the early universe. By determining the properties of these low-mass stars (like their ages), we can gain insight into what was happening in the very distant past. It’s very complementary to what we learn about the early formation of galaxies by looking at high-redshift systems, where we see the galaxies as they existed when they first formed,” Kristen McQuinn of Rutgers University, who works on this study, said in a NASA Blog post.

More findings from JWST are expected to come out next month at the First Science Results from JWST conference in Baltimore, Maryland.


spaceSpace and PhysicsspaceAstronomy
  • tag
  • galaxy,

  • spitzer space telescope,

  • Dwarf Galaxies,

  • star formation,

  • JWST,

  • Local Group,

  • telescope,

  • Astronomy