In what James Webb Space Telescope researchers call “a whole new chapter in astronomy,” the observatory has helped discover two primordial galaxies, one of which contains the light from the most distant star ever seen. May be.
In a tweet, the international team said that unexpectedly bright galaxies could fundamentally change what is known about stars before.
The research — two papers — was published last week in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
With just four days of analysis, the researchers found galaxies in images from the Grism Lens-Amplified Survey from Space (GLASS) Early Release Science (ERS) program.
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The scientists found that the galaxies existed between 450 and 350 million years after the Big Bang, although future spectroscopic measurements with Webb will help confirm these preliminary results.
“With Webb, we were surprised to find the light from the most distant star that no one had ever seen,” Rohan Naidu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told NASA. A few days after releasing its first data”. The more distant GLASS galaxy – called GLASS-z12 – is believed to date back 350 million years after the Big Bang.
Naidu led one paper and Marco Castellano of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, led the other.
The previous record holder is the galaxy GN-z11, which existed 400 million years after the Big Bang.
“Although the distances of these early sources still need to be confirmed spectroscopically, their extreme luminosity is a real mystery, challenging our understanding of galaxy formation,” said Pascal Ochs of the University of Geneva. “
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The observations reportedly led astronomers to the consensus that an extraordinary number of galaxies in the early universe were much brighter than expected, making it easier for telescopes to find even more early galaxies.
“We’ve nailed down something that’s incredibly fascinating,” said the university’s Garth Illingworth. “These galaxies may have started coming together just 100 million years after the Big Bang. Didn’t expect the dark ages to end so soon.” In Santa Cruz, California, Naidoo and Osh team members. “The early universe must have been only one-hundredth of its current age. It’s a slice of time in the 13.8-billion-year-old evolving universe.”
Illingworth also told the agency that galaxies can be very massive — with many low-mass stars — or very few massive, population III stars.
NASA said, as has long been theorized, that these would be the first stars ever born, consisting only of primordial hydrogen and helium.
No such extremely hot, early stars are seen in the local universe.
Galaxies are also unusually small and compact, with spherical or disc shapes rather than grand spirals.
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The discovery of compact discs at such early times was only possible because of the Web’s sharper images in infrared light.
He said follow-up observations would confirm the galaxies’ distances — based on measurements of their infrared colors — and that spectroscopy measurements would provide independent confirmation.
“These observations just blow your mind. It’s a whole new chapter in astronomy. It’s like an archaeological dig, and all of a sudden you find a lost city or something. You didn’t know about. It’s surprising,” Paola Santini, an author of the paper led by Castellano, said.