How and when did the stars in the Universe form?
To answer, we must look back across cosmic time.
But individual stars are only resolvable in nearby galaxies.
Big, Milky Way-like galaxies form stars all throughout their history.
But smaller galaxies formed stars all-at-once, long ago, within our Local Group.
One such galaxy is Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte: WLM, merely 3.04 million light-years away.
WLM, in the constellation of Cetus, is gravitationally bound to us, moving toward us at 122 km/s.
A large fraction of its internal stars formed suddenly: 13 billion years ago.
Those stars are extremely pristine, with just 0.6% of the heavy elements found in the Sun.
New stars still form sporadically inside, but those “old” stars represent a relic, ancient population.
WLM’s only known globular cluster is similarly old and metal-poor.
But JWST’s new view provides astounding new insights.
It’s a great improvement over Spitzer’s prior infrared view.
Even its faint, dim component stars are easily resolved.
JWST’s NIRCam reveals many thousands of individual objects.
Low-density regions showcase more pristine stellar populations.
The dustiest regions suggest ram-pressure stripping.
Occasionally, background galaxies peek through.
Scientific insights will reveal how stars formed, long ago, in the early Universe’s pristine environment.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.