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.
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.