Webb Telescope brings formerly blurry galaxy into focus

Webb Telescope brings formerly blurry galaxy into focus

Spitzer and Webb images of the Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte dwarf galaxy.

Side-by-side views of the Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte dwarf galaxy, taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Webb Space Telescope reveal the impressive resolution offered by the new telescope.

Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte is an isolated dwarf galaxy about 3 million light-years from the Milky Way and about 10 times smaller. Its galactic halo is about 8,000 light-years across. and is thought to be quite old. It was first discovered in October 1909, although it was not identified as a galaxy until 20 years later.

Now, Webb helps us see the dwarf galaxy like never before. Alongside the Spitzer Telescope’s view of the galaxy, Webb’s ability to resolve very faint light sources is apparent.

Webb launched from French Guiana in December 2021 and traveled a million miles to its vantage point in space. The accurate telescope launch extended the planned longevity of the mission by four, which means we could see the telescope operating until 2040. (The Hubble telescope was should work for about 15 years when launched in 1990; 32 years later, it’s still going on strongdespite some hiccups.)

Another view of the dwarf galaxy.

Webb’s large mirror and state-of-the-art instrumentation mean he can see fainter and farther light than any space telescope before it. Among his research targets are exoplanets, objects in our solar system and the first galaxies and stars in the universe. So far, the science images from the telescope have been spellbinding.

The most recent image is no different. It shows countless sources of light coming from part of the dwarf galaxy. The Webb image was taken by its near-infrared camera (NIRCam) and includes light from four of the telescope’s filters; the Spitzer image includes light in two filters. You can also see the NIRCam image all alone heresupplemented by a dramatic enlarge.

This is the second time a Webb the image was posted alongside an older image by Spitzer. The first was a comparison of the two observatories images of the Large Magellanic Cloud, taken by Webb’s MIRI instrument and Spitzer’s infrared camera. The same Spitzer onboard camera was used to capture the above image of the dwarf galaxy.

Images of the Magellanic Cloud were also not in color; Webb’s first color images were released with great fanfare on July 12. On the contrary, the cloud images provided an opportunity to show off Webb’s remarkable alignment.

You can register with Webb using this handy twitter bot this keep an eye on what the telescope is observing in real time.

More: The Webb Telescope shows the Pillars of Creation like you’ve never seen them before

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