NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals new galaxies astronomers have never seen before, deep in the early universe.
Astronomers recently pointed JWST at an object called MACS0647-JD. It’s extremely far away and light takes time to travel, so looking at such a distant object is like stepping back in time too. MACS0647-JD is about 97% back to the Big Bang, within the first 400 million years of the universe.
Dan Coe, a researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute, discovered it 10 years ago with the Hubble Space Telescope, which was previously NASA’s most powerful space observatory.
“With Hubble, it was just this faint red dot. We could tell it was really small, just a tiny galaxy in the first 400 million years of the universe. Now we’re looking with Webb, and we’re capable of resolving TWO objects,” Coe said in an October NASA statement.
JWST is 100 times more powerful than Hubble, and its infrared lens allows it to peer much further into the deep universe and the distant past. By comparing the new JWST image to earlier images from Hubble, astronomers have discovered new features of one of the oldest galaxies ever seen.
Hubble and JWST study the early universe through gravitational lensing. This is what happens when a cluster of distant galaxies is so massive that it distorts spacetime, deflecting light from distant galaxies behind it. This creates mirror images of these galaxies, reflected towards us.
Thus, the fingerprint of the mysterious MACS0647-JD system appears in three places in the images above. The bursts of these three JD system images, right, show how much clearer the JWST images are. They clearly show two different objects.
“We are actively discussing whether these are two galaxies or two star clusters within one galaxy. We don’t know, but these are the questions Webb is designed to help us answer,” Coe said. .
The research has yet to be published, but the difference between the images is stark.
JWST May Reveal Galaxy Mergers and Other Actions Unseen in the Early Universe
One of the objects is bluer, indicating that it contains relatively young stars. The other is more red, indicating an older object with more dust between the stars.
“We may be seeing a merger of galaxies in the very early universe. If it’s the most distant merger, I’ll be really thrilled,” said Tiger Yu-Yang Hsiao, a doctoral student who has studied galaxies. images alongside Coe, in the NASA release. .
JWST will likely reveal even more distant galaxies early in the universe. This will help scientists piece together the missing history back to its first 400 million years.
“Until now, we haven’t really been able to study the galaxies of the early universe in detail. We only had dozens of them before Webb. Studying them can help us understand how they evolved. to become ones like the galaxy we live in today. And also, how the universe evolved over time,” said Rebecca Larson, another PhD student who studied the images, in the NASA statement.
She pointed to all the other tiny dots in the new JWST image – each of them a distant galaxy.
“It’s amazing how much information we’re getting that we just couldn’t see before,” she said, adding, “And it’s not a deep field. It’s not a long exposure. We haven’t even really tried to use this telescope to look at a place for a long time. This is just the beginning!”
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