James Webb is the archaeologist of the galaxies: he unearthed the most distant ever seen

It’s now official: the James Webb telescope has found the most distant galaxy we’ve ever seen. NASA’s space observatory is a true archaeologist of the galaxies.

James Webb’s mission had barely begun when it was already suspected that he was discovering the most distant known galaxy. But, caution was still required in the face of the first data from James Webb. It is now official: the space observatory confirms its status as an archaeologist of the galaxies, this November 17, 2022.

Using the James Webb telescope, scientists have identified two galaxies with unexpected luminosity. One of them contains the most distant starlight ever observed. The results are presented in The Astrophysical Journal Letters — this time, they are indeed published in a scientific journal, the content of which has been peer-reviewed, and not simply put online as a simple draft of the research.

Where were you 350 million years after the Big Bang? This galaxy was there

According to NASA, these galaxies existed a long time ago: 350 and 450 million years after the Big Bang. We see the more distant of the two (named GLASS-Z12), as it was about 13.5 billion years old. The previous record was held by GN-z11, seen by Hubble in 2016, as it existed 400 million years after the Big Bang.

The two new specimens have little to do with our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The images obtained by the JWST reveal structures ” small and compact, with spherical or disc shapes, rather than large spirals. »

The one on the left is the farthest of the two galaxies. // Source : Via Twitter @NasaWebb

Researchers did not expect to flush out such distant galaxies so quickly thanks to James Webb. They had expected to search a much larger portion of space to make this kind of find. ” It’s like an archaeological dig, suddenly you find a lost city or something you didn’t know “Comments Paola Santini of the Rome Observatory, co-author of the study, quoted by NASA.

This discovery has interesting implications. Scientists suspect that stars may have started forming earlier than expected, compared to what was imagined. This could have happened from 100 million years after the Big Bang.

Further follow-up observations are still needed, with this same space telescope, to progress in the knowledge of these two extremely distant galaxies. But, for the authors of this work, “ it is clear that the JWST will succeed in pushing the cosmic frontier to the edge of the Big Bang. »

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