Cape Canaveral. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is finding bright early galaxies that until now remained hidden from view, including one that may have formed as little as 350 million years after spacecraft. big Bang.
A group of astronomers said on Thursday that if the results are verified, this discovery would surpass the most distant galaxy discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope, which identified one that formed 400 million years after the beginning of the universe.
Launched in December 2021 as a successor to Hubble, the Webb telescope has found hints that stars may have formed earlier than previously thought — perhaps in the first couple of million years after creation.
An international team led by Rohan Naidu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics detailed Webb’s latest discoveries to the journal Astrophysical Journal. The article details two exceptionally bright galaxies, the first of which possibly formed 350 million years after the big Bang and the other about 450 million years later.
Naidu said more infrared observations by Webb are needed before saying this is a new distance record.
Although some researchers report having discovered galaxies even closer to the creation of the universe 13.8 billion years ago, these candidates have yet to be verified, the scientists stressed at a NASA news conference. They added that some of them could be later galaxies similar in appearance to early galaxies.
“It’s a very dynamic time,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz, a co-author of Thursday’s paper. “There have been many preliminary announcements of earlier galaxies and we are still trying to determine as a community which of those are likely real.”
Tommaso Treu, of the University of California, Los Angeles and lead scientist for Webb’s early science program, said the evidence presented so far “is as strong as it gets” for the galaxy thought to have formed 350 million years ago. after the big bang.
If the discoveries are verified and there are more early galaxies, Naidu and his team wrote that Webb “will prove enormously successful in pushing the cosmic frontier to the edge of the universe.” big Bang”.
“When and how the first galaxies formed remains one of the most intriguing questions,” they said in the article.
NASA scientist Jane Rigby, a project specialist at Webb, noted that these galaxies “were hidden just beyond the limits of what Hubble could do.”
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