NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has shared a stunning image of a lone galaxy three million light-years from Earth in never-before-seen detail that shows thousands of ancient glittering stars in the region.
The dwarf galaxy Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte (WLM) wasn’t viewed by the Spitzer Space Telescope until 2016, but its instruments are no match for JWST’s and the image shows the stars as blurry images.
Using JWST’s powerful mechanics, NASA hopes to reconstruct the star-forming history of this galaxy that it believes formed billions of years ago — not too long after the Big Bang.
The image also shows JWST’s remarkable ability to resolve faint stars just outside the Milky Way – something that has never been possible until now.
NASA shared on Twitter that, compared to previous space observatory images, Webb’s NIRCam image “makes the whole place sparkle,” which CNN reports is a reference to the song “Bejeweled” on Taylor Swift’s new album, “Midnights.”
The image from the James Web Telescope captured unprecedented detail of the Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte galaxy just outside the Milky Way. It is considered lonely because it does not interact with other systems
The NIRCM (Near-Infrared Camera) is able to detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies.
This observation was made as part of Webb’s Early Release Science (ERS) program 1334, targeting resolved stellar populations.
The dwarf galaxy WLM was selected for this program because its gas is similar to galaxies in the early Universe and relatively close, meaning Webb can distinguish between its individual stars.
WLM is in our galactic environment, but is 10 times smaller than our galaxy.
It was discovered by Max Wolf in 1909, but its nature was later accredited in 1926 by Knut Lundmark and Philibert Jacques Melotte.
Although WLM is relatively close to our Milky Way, it is somewhat isolated and does not interact with other systems, according to Kristen McQuinn of Rutgers University, one of the lead scientists at ERS.
The dwarf galaxy Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte (WLM) wasn’t viewed by the Spitzer Space Telescope until 2016, but its instruments are no match for JWST’s and the image shows the stars as blurry images
However, because WLM is not intertwined and entwined with the Milky Way, it is an important topic to study.
‘Another interesting and important aspect of WLM is that its gas is similar to the gas that makes up galaxies in the early Universe. It’s quite unenriched chemically,” McQuinn told a… pronunciation to NASA.
This is because the galaxy has lost many of these elements through something called galactic winds.
“While WLM has been forming stars lately – actually throughout cosmic time – and those stars have synthesized new elements, some of the material is expelled from the galaxy when the massive stars explode.
“Supernovas can be powerful and energetic enough to push material out of small, bright galaxies like WLM.”
This is why WLM is a much sought-after research topic, as astronomers can observe how stars form and evolve in small galaxies, just as they did when the universe first formed.
‘We can see a large number of individual stars of different colors, sizes, temperatures, ages and stages of evolution; interesting clouds of nebula gas in the galaxy; foreground stars with Webb’s diffraction peaks; and background galaxies with nice features like tidal tails. It’s a really beautiful image,” McQuinn said.
‘And of course the view is much deeper and better than our eyes could ever see.
“Even if you were looking out from a planet at the center of this galaxy, and even if you could see infrared light, you would need bionic eyes to see what Webb sees.”
The galaxy contains low-mass stars, which are believed to live for billions of years, meaning they formed shortly after the Big Bang.
The goal is to determine the properties of these bright stars, especially their ages, to gain insight into what happened in the very distant past.
“Now we’re looking at the near-infrared light with Webb, and we’re using WLM as a sort of standard for comparison (like you would use in a lab) to help us make sure we understand the Webb observations,” McQuinn said.
‘We want to make sure that we measure the brightness of the stars really, very accurately and precisely. We also want to make sure we understand our stellar evolution models in the near infrared.’
The James Webb telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope is designed to detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies
The James Webb telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born in the early Universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and to observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.
The massive telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is thought to be a successor to the orbiting Hubble space telescope
The James Webb telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
It is the world’s largest and most powerful orbital space telescope, capable of peering back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.
The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, as the two will be working together for a while.
The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 via the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It orbits the Earth at a speed of about 27,300 km/h in low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 340 miles.