The Webb telescope reveals the most distant galaxy that may yet exist

The James Webb Space Telescope spotted a remote, red glowing galaxy just 350 million years after the birth of the cosmos 13.8 billion years ago, puzzling astronomers struggling to figure out how stars and galaxies could have formed. to be done so quickly after such a long life. Big Bang, researchers said Thursday.

“These observations just make your head explode,” Paola Santini, co-author of a paper describing the discovery in Astrophysical Journal Letters, said in a statement. “This is a whole new chapter in astronomy. It’s like an archaeological dig, and suddenly you find a lost city or something you didn’t know about. It’s just a fluke.”

The most distant galaxy yet detected appears as a tiny red dot in this James Webb Space Telescope image. Data analysis shows that the galaxy was shining just 350 million years after the birth of the Big Bang in the cosmos, about 50 million years earlier than the previous record holder. / Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Tommaso Treu (UCLA); image processing: Zolt G. Levay (STScI)

No one yet knows when the first stars turned on after the so-called “dark ages” ended and light first began to travel freely through the universe. But “I think anything earlier than 100 million years would be just strange,” Garth Illingworth, Webb astronomer and professor at the University of California Santa Cruz, told reporters.

“We were mostly thinking that the first things to form were probably a few hundred million years old,” he said. “But these galaxies could be so massive that it could push us back earlier than those two hundred. This is really a great open question — when did the first stars form? .”

The galaxies in question are GLASS-z12, shining 350 million years after the Big Bang, and other galaxies dating back 450 million years, discovered after four days of analysis as part of the Amplified Lens Grism Survey from Space, or GLASS, looking. program.

As the name suggests, the extremely distant galaxies were found in light as they were gravitationally enlarged by the mass of a closer galaxy cluster. Both observations are across the previous Hubble record holder, galaxy GN-z11, which was dated to be about 400 million years old.

The ages of the newly discovered galaxies have not yet been fully confirmed – further spectroscopic analysis is needed – but the astronomers said the observations show clear signs of many galaxies that may be older, pushing back star formation closer to the Big Bang.

The second galaxy Webb discovered dates back to 450 million years after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.  The largest galaxies in the image are members of a closer galaxy cluster.  Light from the much more distant galaxies was magnified, or gravitationally lensed, by the massive mass of the intermediate cluster.  / Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Tommaso Treu (UCLA);  image processing: Zolt G. Levay (STScI)

The second galaxy Webb discovered dates back to 450 million years after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. The largest galaxies in the image are members of a closer galaxy cluster. Light from the much more distant galaxies was magnified, or gravitationally lensed, by the massive mass of the intermediate cluster. / Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Tommaso Treu (UCLA); image processing: Zolt G. Levay (STScI)

“These galaxies should have started coming together perhaps 100 million years after the Big Bang,” Illingworth said in a NASA statement. “No one expected the dark ages to end so soon. The primal universe would be only a hundredth of the current age. It is a sliver of time in the 13.8 billion-year-old evolutionary cosmos.”

Tommaso Treu, principal investigator of the GLASS project and a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the survey was meant to “be a way for the astronomical community to quickly see the wonders of the universe.” “

“And the universe and JWST did not let us down,” he said. “As soon as we started taking data, we discovered that there are much more luminous distant galaxies than we expected. Somehow, the Universe managed to form galaxies faster and earlier than we thought.

“Just a few 100 million years after the Big Bang there are many galaxies. JWST has opened a new frontier, bringing us closer to understanding how it all began. And we have begun to explore it.”

The James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful space observatory ever launched, equipped with a 21.3-foot-wide segmentation mirror and four sensitive cameras and spectroscopic detectors operating at less than 50 degrees above the absolute.

The ultra-low temperature is required to enable the telescope catch a faint light which has been extended into the infrared region of the spectrum by the expansion of space itself over the lifetime of the cosmos.

Launched on Christmas Day last year, JWST is in its fifth month of science operations.

“JWST is a gift that took months to release and the result is that the observatory is almost more powerful than our pre-launch expectations,” said Jane Rigby, Webb operations project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“Images are sharper, pointing and guidance are more stable, with darker skies, darker backgrounds and more, better sensitivity.” The initial results from the GLASS project, she said, are just some of the flood of new discoveries pouring in. Just as we hoped,”

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