James Webb Space Telescope may have already found the oldest galaxy ever seen

(ORDO NEWS) — Just a week after the first images were shown to the world, the James Webb Space Telescope may have discovered a galaxy that existed 13.5 billion years ago, a scientist who analyzed the data said Wednesday.

Known. As GLASS-z13, the galaxy dates back 300 million years after the Big Bang, about 100 million years earlier than anything previously identified, Rohan Naidu of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics told AFP.

“We are potentially looking at the most distant starlight anyone has ever seen,” he said.

The farther away objects are from us, the longer it takes for them to glow. to reach us and thus look into the distant universe is to look into the deep past.

Although GLASS-z13 existed in the earliest era of the universe, its exact age remains the same. is unknown, as it could have formed at any time during the first 300 million years.

GLASS-z13 was spotted in so-called “early releases” of data from the orbiting observatory’s main thermal imager, called NIRcam, but the discovery was not found in the first set of images released by NASA last week.

When translated from infrared to visible spectrum, the galaxy appears as a red spot with a white center, as part of a larger image. deep space, called the “deep field”.

Naidoo and his colleagues, a team of 25 astronomers from around the world, have submitted their findings to a scientific journal.

So far, the study is hosted on the preprint server, so it has a caveat that it has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it has already caused an uproar from the world astronomical community.

“The astronomical record is already crumbling, and even more shaky,” NASA Chief Scientist Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted.

“Yes, I tend to be only happy when scientific results receive a clear peer review. But it looks very promising,” he added.

Naidu said that another group of astronomers led by Marco Castellano who worked on the same data came to similar conclusions, “which gives us confidence.”

‘Upcoming work’
One of Webb’s great promises is its ability to find the earliest post-Big Bang galaxies, 13.8 billion years ago.

Because they are so far from Earth, by the time their light reaches us, it has been stretched due to the expansion of the universe and shifted into the infrared region of the light spectrum, which Webb is able to detect with unprecedented clarity. p>

Naidoo and his colleagues combed through this infrared data from the distant universe, looking for tell-tale signs of very distant galaxies.

Below a certain threshold of infrared wavelength, all photons – packets of energy – are absorbed by the neutral hydrogen of the Universe, located between the object and the observer.

By collecting data with different infrared filters aimed at the same region of space, they were able to discover where these photon dips occurred, from which they deduced the presence of these most distant galaxies.

“We looked for all the early data for galaxies with this very bright feature, and these were the two systems that had the most compelling feature,” Naidoo said.

One of them is GLASS-z13 and the other is not. GLASS-z11.

“There is compelling evidence, but there is still a lot to be done,” Naidoo said.

Specifically, the team wants to ask Webb’s managers if it’s time for the telescope to run spectroscopy – an analysis of light that reveals detailed properties – to measure its exact distance.

“Right now, our guess at distance is based on what we don’t see — that would be great. It would be great to get an answer for what we see,” Naidoo said.

However, the team has already discovered surprising properties.

For example, a galaxy is a billion suns, which is “potentially very surprising and something we don’t really understand,” considering how soon after the Big Bang it formed, Naidoo said.

Launched last December and fully operational since last week, Webb has become the most powerful space telescope ever built, and astronomers are confident it will usher in a new era of discovery.


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