Webb Space Telescope locates the first galaxies hidden by Hubble

This image made available by the Space Telescope Science Institute on Thursday, November 19. 17, 2022, shows two of the most distant galaxies seen to date captured by the James Webb Space Telescope in the outer regions of the giant galaxy cluster Abell 2744. The galaxies are not within the cluster, but many billions of light years behind it it . The galaxy labeled “1” existed only 450 million years after the big bang. The galaxy labeled “2” existed 350 million years after the big bang. (NASA, ESA, CSA, Tommaso Treu (UCLA), Zolt G. Levay (STScI) via AP)

NASA’s Webb Space Telescope is finding bright primordial galaxies that were until now hidden from view, including one that may have formed just 350 million years after the Big Bang that created the cosmos.

Astronomers said Thursday that if the results hold true, this newly discovered crowd of stars would beat out the most distant galaxy identified by the Hubble Space Telescope, a record holder that formed 400 million years after the universe began.

Launched last December as a successor to Hubble, the Webb telescope indicates that stars may have formed earlier than previously thought, perhaps within a couple of million years of creation.

Webb’s latest findings were detailed in the Astrophysical Journal Letters by an international team led by Rohan Naidu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The article delves into two exceptionally bright galaxies, the first thought to have formed 350 million years after the Big Bang and the other 450 million years after.

Naidu said more infrared observations from Webb are needed before he can claim a new distance record holder.

Although some researchers report discovering galaxies even closer to the creation of the universe 13.8 billion years ago, those candidates have yet to be verified, scientists pointed out at a NASA news conference. Some of these could be later galaxies mimicking earlier ones, they noted.

Webb Space Telescope locates the first galaxies hidden by Hubble

This image made available by the Space Telescope Science Institute on Wednesday, November 19. 16, 2022, shows a protostar within dark cloud L1527 embedded in a cloud of material that fuels its growth, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. Ejections from the star have cleared the cavities above and below it, the edges of which glow orange and blue in this infrared view. The lower right region appears blue, as there is less dust between it and Webb than the orange regions above it. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI) via AP)

“This is a very dynamic moment,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz, co-author of the paper published Thursday. “There have been many preliminary announcements of even earlier galaxies, and we’re still trying to figure out as a community which of these might be real.”

Tommaso Treu of the University of California, Los Angeles, a lead scientist in Webb’s Early Release Science Program, said the evidence presented so far “is solid enough” for the galaxy believed to have formed 350 million after the Big Bang.

Webb Space Telescope locates the first galaxies hidden by Hubble

This combined image furnished by NASA on Wednesday, Oct. 18. 19, 2022, shows the Pillars of Creation as taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2014, left, and NASA’s James Webb Telescope, right. The James Webb Space Telescope’s new near-infrared view helps us peer through more dust in the star-forming region, according to NASA. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI via AP

If the results hold true and there are other early galaxies out there, Raidu and his team wrote that Webb “will prove highly successful in pushing the cosmic frontier to the brink of the Big Bang.”

“When and how the first galaxies formed remains one of the most intriguing questions,” they said in their paper.

Webb Space Telescope locates the first galaxies hidden by Hubble

This image released by NASA on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, shows the Pillars of Creation, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope in near-infrared view. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI via AP

NASA’s Jane Rigby, a project scientist with Webb, noted that these galaxies “lurked just below the limits of what Hubble could do.”

“They were right there waiting for us,” he told reporters. “So it’s a happy surprise that there are many such galaxies to study.”

The $10 billion observatory, the world’s largest and most powerful telescope ever sent into space, is in a solar orbit 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth. Full science operations began over the summer, and NASA has since released a series of dazzling snapshots of the universe.

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Citation: Webb Space Telescope Spots Early Hidden Galaxies From Hubble (2022, Nov 24) Retrieved Nov 24, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-webb-space-telescope-early-galaxies.html

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