NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope searches for the most distant galaxies in the universe

(ORDO NEWS) — Scottish astronomers working with data from NASA‘s James Webb Super Space Telescope believe they have discovered a galaxy that is 35 billion light-years away from the solar system.

A note about distances: The universe is expanding. During the time that the light from objects reaches us, these objects are far removed.

Therefore, their position today is much, much further than when the light was first emitted. That is, there is no equal sign between the age of the Universe and its size.

If they are correct, then we see the galaxy, designated CEERS-93316, as it was “only” 235 million years after the Big Bang.

However, it should be understood that this is a preliminary estimate of the distance, and additional research is needed to confirm or refute the statements of scientists.

But for now, the University of Edinburgh team, which has discovered a candidate for the most distant known galaxy, is celebrating the results of their own research and marveling at the power of “James Webb.”

“We’re using a telescope that was designed for exactly this kind of thing, which is amazing,” said Callum Donnan, an astrophysicist at the University of Edinburgh.

The James Webb is the successor to the $10 billion NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, designed and launched to hunt for the first stars and galaxies in the 13.8 billion year old universe.

These objects are extremely dim, making them impossible to observe with previous instruments. However, “James Webb”, capturing their glow in the infrared range, is able to correct the situation.

NASAs James Webb Space Telescope searches for the most distant galaxies in the universe 2
The first scientific image of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, released July 12

NASA “James Webb” began the search for record holders

Ever since the James Webb began scientific activity at the end of June, astronomers have been finding increasingly distant objects (candidates for the role of the most distant objects) in his images.

And if everything goes according to plan, then scientists will eventually be able to see objects that existed in that historical period, when the age of the universe was approximately 100 million years.

So in the near future we will increasingly hear the news about how some team of astronomers managed to find “the most distant object in the universe.”

The target (galaxy) of astronomers from the University of Edinburgh under the designation CEERS-93316 has a redshift of 16.7.

The term “redshift”, used by astronomers to define giant distances in space, is a phenomenon in which the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation for an observer increases relative to the wavelength of radiation emitted by a source (light emanating from an object is “stretched” as the Universe expands to redder wavelengths).

The greater the redshift number assigned to a galaxy, the farther it is from us, and the closer we can get to know the early Universe.

In recent days, the popular preprint server arXiv.org has seen a flurry of ever-greater redshifts revealed from “James Webb” data.

Macy’s galaxy

The galaxy CEERSJ141946.35+525632.8, named Macy after the daughter of one of the astronomers, was discovered during a large-scale study conducted by “James Webb”.

This object has a redshift of 14.3, which means we see it as it was about 280 million years after the Big Bang.

NASAs James Webb Space Telescope searches for the most distant galaxies in the universe 3
Macy’s CEERSJ141946.35+525632.8 galaxy

Not as far away as CEERS-93316, but there is one important detail in all this: the candidates for the role of the most distant objects have not yet been fully spectroscopically examined.

That is, the galaxy, which is tentatively estimated as the most distant, may be closer to the one that is inferior to it so far.

Spectroscopy involves dividing the light coming from a galaxy into its component colors – its spectra. This will give the most accurate picture of how light, originally emitted in the visible wavelength range, has been transformed into infrared over billions of years.

Only after this task is completed – “James Webb” has the tools for this – will the distances to certain candidates be clarified.

Another important advantage of spectroscopy is that it allows one to determine the composition of objects.

The theory says that the very first stars “feeded” only on hydrogen, helium and a small amount of lithium – elements formed shortly after the Big Bang. Heavier atoms – astronomers call them “metals” – appeared after the death of the first generations of stars.

“We can look at the colors of our Galaxy in a broad sense and see that it is pretty blue,” Donnan said. “This indicates a young stellar population.

But it [the Milky Way galaxy] is not completely blue, because it also contains stars that do not contain metals [the most ancient stars].”

Professor Steve Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin, USA, who is Macy’s proud father, said:

I have heard the opinion that this telescope [“James Webb”] will transform our thinking.

And I said, “You know, he’s going to do a lot of cool things, but is he really going to completely change what we know about the universe?

The textbooks will be rewritten even on the basis of the data we received in just the first week!”

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