The JWST Discovers a Galaxy That Shouldn’t Exist

The JWST captured this image of an unusual quiescent dwarf galaxy in the background of separate observations. Image Credit: Carleton et al. 2024

Astronomers working with the JWST found a dwarf galaxy they weren’t looking for. It’s about 98 million years away, has no neighbours, and was in the background of an image of other galaxies. This isolated galaxy shows a lack of star-formation activity, which is very unusual for an isolated dwarf.

Most isolated dwarf galaxies form stars, according to a wealth of observations. What’s different about this one?

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An Epic Collaboration Between Hubble and JWST

This panchromatic view of galaxy cluster MACS0416 was created by combining infrared observations from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope with visible-light data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

In 2012, as part of the MAssive Cluster Survey (MACS), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) discovered a pair of colliding galaxy clusters (MACS0416) that will eventually combine to form an even bigger cluster. Located about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, the MACS0416 cluster contains multiple gravitational lenses that allow astronomers to look back in time and view galaxies as they appeared when the Universe was young. In a new collaboration that symbolizes the passing of the torch, the venerable Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) teamed up to conduct an extremely detailed study of MACS0416.

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