Universe-Breaking Discovery: Massive Galaxies Spotted In Early Universe
Astronomers have uncovered an incredible surprise while peering into one of the oldest star clusters of our Milky Way galaxy with the aid of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope revealed six massive galaxies that existed between 500 million and 700 million years after the big bang. This discovery is completely upending existing theories about the origins of galaxies, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“These objects are way more massive than anyone expected,” said Joel Leja, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University and a study co-author. It was thought that we would only encounter small, juvenile galaxies at this point in cosmic history; however, we have found galaxies that are as mature as our own in what was formerly considered the beginning of the universe.
The researchers used Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) to capture the cluster with exposures lasting 4-6 hours, for a total of about 30 hours of observing time. This year, the researchers plan to utilize the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) of Webb in order to get exact measurements of distance and other comprehensive data concerning the lensed galaxies' components – thereby giving fresh understanding into the initial period of galaxy assembly and evolution.
Erik Rosolowsky, a PHANGS team member and an associate professor of physics at the University of Alberta in Canada, said in a statement, “We are directly seeing how the energy from the formation of young stars affects the gas around them, and it’s just remarkable.”
“The revelation that massive galaxy formation began extremely early in the history of the universe upends what many of us had thought was settled science,” Leja said. We have been referring to these things as “universe breakers” – and they have certainly kept true to their title.
A spectrum will immediately tell scientists whether or not these things are real, and how big and far away they are. Models would need to be changed or the concept that galaxies began as small collections of stars and dust, gradually increasing in size, would need to be reconsidered if such an immense quantity of mass was present.
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