Scientists discover ancient globular clusters in James Webb image

(ORDO NEWS) — Using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), researchers from Canada’s CANUCS (CAnadian NIRISS Unbiased Cluster Survey) team have identified the most distant globular clusters that may contain the oldest stars in the universe.

Using detailed images from the Webb, scientists focused on studying the Sparkler Galaxy (Sparkler), which is 9 billion light-years away from us.

This galaxy gets its name from the small yellow-red dots surrounding it. The team hypothesized that these sparks could either be young clusters actively forming stars or old globular clusters.

After conducting an initial analysis of 12 of these objects, the researchers determined that 5 of them are among the oldest globular clusters known to us at the moment.

Researchers observe the Sparkler Galaxy and the globular clusters around it as they were about 9 billion years ago. That is, at that time the universe was only about 4.5 billion years old.

Until now, astronomers have not been able to observe the compact objects surrounding the Sparkler galaxy, but that has changed thanks to the increased resolution and sensitivity of the JWST.

In addition, the Sparkler galaxy is magnified 100 times by an effect called gravitational lensing. The galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, in the foreground, distorts what is behind it like a giant magnifying glass.

“Our Sparkler study highlights the enormous power of combining JWST’s unique capabilities with the natural magnification provided by gravitational lensing,” says CANUCS team leader Chris Willott.

“The team looks forward to new discoveries when JWST turns its gaze to the CANUCS galaxy clusters next month.”

The scientists combined new data from the James Webb telescope’s NIRCam instrument with archived Hubble data.

The scientists also used a Canadian near-IR imaging instrument and a NIRISS slitless spectrograph, which provided independent confirmation that the objects are old globular clusters.

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