They are estimated to be only 350 and 450 million years old respectively after the Big Bang
The US and European space agencies, NASA and ESA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope has discovered two unexpectedly bright galaxies, which are among the earliest and most distant ever observed.
The two galaxies they are estimated to be only 350 and 450 million years old respectively after the initial “Big Bang” that created the universe. The current record holder for distance in space and time was a galaxy that existed 400 million years ago after the “Big Bang” and was found in 2016 by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The high brightness of two such young but relatively small galaxies is an enigma for scientists. The two galaxies were until now “invisible” to other less powerful telescopes. Observing the light of very distant celestial objects, which has made a long journey to Earth, means that astronomers are simultaneously seeing what existed far back in the past.
The researchers, led by Marco Castellano of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy and Rohan Naidu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the US, made relevant publications in the astrophysics journal “The Astrophysical Research Letters”, while NASA also held a related press conference on the discovery . James Webb’s new observations lead astronomers to conclude that in the early days there were an unexpectedly large number of galaxies much brighter than expected.
“Everything we see is new. Webb shows us that there is a much richer universe beyond what we had imagined. Once again the universe surprised us. These early galaxies are very unusual in many ways. They are very different from our own galaxy or from other large galaxies that we see around us today,” said Tommaso Trew of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
“These observations just make your head explode. This is a completely new chapter in astronomy. It’s like an archaeological dig, when you suddenly find a lost city or something you didn’t know anything about,” said Paola Santini of the Rome Observatory.
“Although the distances of these early galaxies need to be confirmed by spectroscopy, their extreme luminosities are a real enigma, a challenge to our understanding of galaxy formation,” noted Pascal Oes of the University of Geneva.
“We found something incredibly charming. These galaxies should have started forming just 100 million years after the Big Bang. No one expected that the ‘dark ages’ would end so quickly. It’s impressive that we see such bright galaxies at such early ages,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The $10 billion James Webb, launched last December, is the largest and most powerful telescope ever sent into space, orbiting the Sun at a distance of 1.6 million kilometers from Earth.
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