JWST Team Discovers “Universe Breakers”: Six Massive Galaxies from 500 Million Years After the Big Bang

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has made a groundbreaking discovery that could shake up our understanding of the early universe. A team of researchers observed 19 spiral galaxies using the telescope's infrared capabilities, uncovering six massive galaxies that date back to 500 million years after the Big Bang.[0] This is many times faster than the rate of galaxy formation should have allowed, leading the team to call the galaxies “universe breakers.”

The JWST team, led by Janice Lee, Gemini Observatory chief scientist at the US National Science Foundation's NOIRLab and an affiliate astronomer at the University of Arizona, includes more than 100 international researchers.[1] The telescope is able to penetrate through dust and gas clouds to observe the galaxies in greater detail than ever before.

It has taken 13 billion years for the light from the galaxies to reach us, meaning that we are viewing them from when the universe was only 700 million years old, which is only about 5% of its current age of 13.8 billion years.[2] The galaxies are estimated to be up to 100 times larger than previously thought with masses up to one trillion times that of our sun.[3]

The telescope’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) has also revealed an intricate network of cavernous bubbles and shells caused by young stars releasing energy and, in some cases, blowing out the gas and dust of the interstellar medium surrounding them.[4] This is evidence of the formation of stars and planets, as the bubbles and shells contain complex organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

“It’s bananas,” said Erica Nelson, an assistant professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a co-author of the paper.[5] One would not anticipate that the early universe had the capability to organize itself so speedily. It should not have had sufficient time to construct these galaxies.[6]

The researchers hope that a spectrum will help them confirm the existence of these galaxies, as well as provide more details about their size, distance, and makeup. This will demonstrate their size and distance.[7] We had no expectation of learning this from James Webb, yet it is amusing to think of it now.[8]

0. “PHOTOS: Once invisible galaxies shot by the James Webb telescope” Business Insider, 18 Feb. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/photos-once-invisible-galaxies-shot-by-the-james-webb-telescope-2023-2

1. “Webb and PHANGS collaboration reveal incredible networks of gas and dust in nearby spiral galaxies” imaging resource, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2023/02/16/webb-space-telescope-reveal-incredible-networks-of-spiral-galaxies

2. “How Giant Baby Galaxies Are Shaking Up Our Understanding of the Early Universe” Singularity Hub, 24 Feb. 2023, https://singularityhub.com/2023/02/24/how-giant-baby-galaxies-are-shaking-up-our-understanding-of-the-early-universe/

3. “Astronomers Detect 6 Massive Galaxies So Old They Can't Be Explained by Science” ScienceAlert, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.sciencealert.com/astronomers-detect-6-massive-galaxies-so-old-they-cant-be-explained-by-science

4. “James Webb Space Telescope spies baby stars dancing in gas and dust” Space.com, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.space.com/james-webb-space-telescope-image-young-stars-ngc-1433

5. “Webb telescope spots super old, massive galaxies that shouldn't exist” University of Colorado Boulder, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.colorado.edu/today/2023/02/22/webb-telescope-spots-super-old-massive-galaxies-shouldnt-exist

6. “James Webb captures galaxies that are too old to exist” Earth.com, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.earth.com/news/james-webb-captures-galaxies-that-are-too-old-to-exist

7. “Webb telescope makes surprising galactic discovery in the distant universe” WPTZ, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.mynbc5.com/article/webb-telescope-makes-galactic-discovery-in-the-distant-universe/43033620

8. “Discovery of massive early galaxies defies prior understanding of the universe” Pennsylvania State University, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.psu.edu/news/research/story/discovery-massive-early-galaxies-defies-prior-understanding-universe

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