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The James Webb Space Telescope has taken a remarkably detailed image of a nearby dwarf galaxy. The near-infrared view reveals the deepest view yet of a stellar landscape that could offer astronomers an ideal means of studying aspects of the early universe.
The image shows a panoply of stars within a lonely dwarf galaxy called Wolf – Lundmark – Melottewhich is located about 3 million light-years from our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and is about a tenth of the size.
The WLM galaxy is intriguing to astronomers because it has remained largely isolated and has a similar chemical composition to galaxies in the early universe, according to POT.
The Webb Telescope, which launched in December 2021, is the most powerful space observatory to date. It is capable of detecting the faint light of incredibly distant galaxies when they shine in infrared light, a wavelength invisible to the human eye.
The Hubble Space Telescope and the now defunct Spitzer Space Telescope have photographed the WLM galaxy, but Webb used his near-infrared camera, also called NIR camerato capture it in unprecedented detail.
“We can see a myriad of individual stars of different colors, sizes, temperatures, ages and stages of evolution; interesting nebular gas clouds within the galaxy; foreground stars with Webb diffraction spikes; and background galaxies with tidy features like tidal tails,” said Kristen McQuinn, an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy at Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ, in a comment posted on NASA website. A tidal tail is a thin “tail” of stars and interstellar gas that extends from a galaxy.
“It’s really a beautiful image,” added McQuinn, who is one of the lead scientists on the Webb Early Exit Science Program.
On Twitter, the official account for NASA’s Webb Telescope stated that compared to previous images from the space observatory, Webb’s NIRCam image “makes the whole place glow,” a reference to the song “Bejeweled” on Taylor Swift’s new album, “Midnights”.
Some of the stars depicted in this latest Webb image are low-mass stars that formed in the early universe and can survive for billions of years, McQuinn noted on the NASA site.
“By determining the properties of these low-mass stars (such as their ages), we can gain insight into what was happening in the very distant past,” he said.
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