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James Webb Space Telescope captures twinkling dwarf galaxy


We admit it – we’re a little obsessed with the James Webb Space Telescope here at digital camera world. While we usually focus our attention on images made on earth, there is something truly fascinating about looking at images from the far reaches of space or just outside of our daily lives.

After the last “Cosmic Tarantula (opens in a new tab)image released in time for Halloween, the latest image shared by NASA on the James Webb Space Telescope gallery page shows “part of the Wolf–Lundmark–Melotte (WLM) dwarf galaxy”, which gives us an idea of the telescope’s incredible ability to resolve faint stars outside the Milky Way – the galaxy that includes our own solar system.

One of the best things about the official Webb website is that each image comes with a scientific explanation, in terms that make it easy to understand what’s going on in the image. Information in this image comes from Kristen McQuinn of Rutgers University, one of the lead scientists in the Webb Early Release Science (ERS) 1334 program, which focuses on resolved stellar populations.

“WLM is a dwarf galaxy in our galactic neighborhood,” she explains. “It’s quite close to the Milky Way (about 3 million light-years from Earth), but it’s also relatively isolated. We believe that WLM hasn’t interacted with other systems, which makes it really nice to test our theories on galaxy formation and evolution.”

This stunning image was shown in a planetarium, and Kristen goes on to say how amazing the experience was. “I will never look at these images the same way again. Seeing this on the dome was like looking at our own night skyto the milky wayfrom a dark site. I could imagine we were standing on a planet in the WLM galaxy and looking up at its night sky.”

Of course, in terms of imaging, the James Webb Space Telescope has nothing to do with the best deep space telescopes. (opens in a new tab) that we usually buy to contemplate the night sky, or as the best camera for astrophotography (opens in a new tab).

Images like this were taken by the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Webb’s primary imager that covers infrared wavelengths of light ranging from 0.6 to 5 microns. In addition to fascinating scientists and the general public, it will also help astronomers in their future observations. “We’re checking the calibration of the NIRCam instrument itself. We’re checking our models of stellar evolution. And we’re developing software to measure the brightness of stars,” Kirstin says.

Why not see the full resolution (opens in a new tab) version of this Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte (WLM) image of the dwarf galaxy so you can immerse yourself in all its detail?

And if you want to see more versions of Webb images, head over to the James Webb Space Telescope Gallery (opens in a new tab), where you can see all of Webb’s early images and learn more about what they represent. NASA will regularly launch new images (opens in a new tab).

We will report more Images from the James Webb Space Telescope (opens in a new tab) as they are released, from the perspective of imagery as the subjects themselves.

If you feel inspired, why not try deep space photography (opens in a new tab) yourself, and check the best telescopes (opens in a new tab) to watch the night sky at home?

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