A part of the Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte (WLM) dwarf galaxy as seen using the Near-Infrared Camera on the James Webb Space Telescope. The picture showcases Webb's amazing capacity to distinguish small stars outside the Milky Way.
Credits: SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, Kristen McQuinn (RU), IMAGE PROCESSING: Zolt G. Levay (STScI)
November 09, 2022
German astronomer Max Wolf found WLM in 1909; astronomers Knut Lundmark and Philibert Jacques Melotte later recognized it as a galaxy, giving the galaxy its odd name. The Milky Way, one of the three prominent spiral galaxies in the Local Group, is roughly three million light-years away from the faint galaxy, which is situated in Cetus (The Sea Monster) constellation.
Due to its size and lack of structure, WLM is categorized as a dwarf irregular galaxy. WLM has a maximum span of 8000 light-years, which includes a halo of really old stars that was identified in 1996.
Without the interference of other galaxies and their star populations, WLM has evolved independently. Therefore, WLM represents a virtually unaltered "state of nature," where any changes occurring over its lifetime have mostly taken place independently of activity elsewhere, similar to a concealed human community with limited contact with outsiders.
A long halo of very faint red stars surrounds this little galaxy and extends into the surrounding deep nothingness. Advanced stellar age is indicated by its reddish color. The halo probably formed when the galaxy first began to form, providing useful hints regarding the processes that gave rise to the first galaxies.
The Spitzer Space Telescope's Infrared Array Camera (left) and the James Webb Space Telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (right) have both photographed a portion of the dwarf galaxy Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte (WLM) (right). The pictures show off Webb's extraordinary skill at resolving small stars outside the Milky Way.
Credits: SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, IPAC, Kristen McQuinn (RU), IMAGE PROCESSING: Zolt G. Levay (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)