Using the first data set published by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), an international team of scientists discovered something surprising: evidence for six massive galaxies that existed during the early days of our universe.
“These objects are much more massive than anyone expected,” said Joel Leja, an astronomer and astrophysicist at Pennsylvania State University. in a sentence. “We expected to find small, young, baby galaxies at this time, but we have discovered galaxies as mature as our own at what was previously understood as the dawn of the universe.”
[Related: Astronomers are already using James Webb Space Telescope data to hunt down cryptic galaxies.]
Leja is co-author of a Study published on February 22 in the journal Nature that could change some of our preconceived notions of how galaxies form. These newly discovered galaxies date back to about 500 to 700 million years after the Big Bang. JWST has infrared detection instruments on board that can detect the light emitted by the oldest stars and galaxies, allowing astronomers to see approximately 13.5 billion years back in time.
“This is our first look so far, so it’s important that we keep an open mind about what we’re seeing.” Leja said. “While the data indicates that they are likely galaxies, I think there is a real possibility that some of these objects turn out to be obscured supermassive black holes. Regardless, the amount of mass we discovered means that the known mass in stars in this period of our universe is up to 100 times greater than we had previously thought. Even if we cut the sample in half, this is still an amazing change.”
Since these six galaxies were much more massive than anyone on the team expected them to be, they could change previous notions about galaxy formation at the beginning of the universe.
“The revelation that massive galaxy formation began very early in the history of the universe turns what many of us had thought to be established science on its head.” said far. “We’ve been informally calling these objects ‘universe breakers,’ and so far they’ve been living up to their name.”
The authors argue that “universe breakers” are so large that almost all modern cosmological models fail to explain how these star systems could have formed.
[Related: Our universe mastered the art of making galaxies while it was still young.]
“We looked into the very early universe for the first time and had no idea what we were going to find.” Leja said. “It turns out that we found something so unexpected that it actually creates problems for science. It casts doubt on the whole picture of early galaxy formation.”
One way the team can confirm their new findings is with a spectrum image which could provide data on the true distances between us and the mysterious galaxies, as well as the alleys and other elements present. He would also paint a clearer picture of what these galaxies looked like billions of years ago.
“A ghost will tell us immediately if these things are real or not.” Leja said. “It will show us how big they are, how far away they are. The funny thing is, we have all these things that we hope to learn from James Webb and this was nowhere near the top of the list. We have found something that we never thought to ask the universe, and it happened much faster than he thought, but here we are.
NASA released the first full-color images and spectroscopic data from JWST on July 12, 2022. One of JWST’s primary goals this year is to better map and create a timeline of the early days of the universe with its sensing capabilities. infrared and high resolution.