from NASA The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has reached a new milestone for humanity, after an international team of astronomers used data from the telescope to discover the first confirmed galaxies to date. The light from these galaxies took more than 13.4 billion years to reach us, which means that these galaxies date back less than 400 million years after the Big Bang that created the universe. This means that these galaxies formed when the universe was only about two percent of its current age. Data collected from the JWST earlier had provided suitable candidates for these ancient galaxies.
Now, researchers have confirmed these targets by obtaining spectroscopic observations, revealing characteristic and distinctive patterns in the fingerprints of light from these incredibly faint galaxies.
Astronomer and co-author Emma Curtis-Lake from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK said: “It was crucial to prove that these galaxies indeed inhabited the early universe. It is very possible that closer galaxies will pass themselves off as very distant galaxies. .
“To see the spectrum revealed as we had hoped, confirming that these galaxies are at the edge of our field of view, some farther away than Hubble could see! This is an extremely exciting achievement for the mission.”
The observations are the result of a collaboration of scientists around the world who led the development of two of the instruments on board Webb, the near-infrared camera (NIRCam) and the near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec).
Researchers developed these instruments as part of their quest to study the deepest and faintest corners of the universe. In 2015, the instrument teams came together to propose the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES).
This ambitious program, which was an international collaboration of more than eighty astronomers from ten countries, has been allocated just over a month of telescope time spread over two years, and is designed to provide a view of the unparalleled primitive universe in depth and detail. .
Co-author Marcia Rieke, NIRCam Principal Investigator, University of Arizona Tucson, said, “These results are the culmination of why the NIRCam and NIRSpec teams have partnered to run this observing program.”
The first round of JADES observations focused on the area in and around the Hubble Space Telescope’s Ultra Deep Field, however, the new JWST has significantly boosted their capabilities, providing the faintest and sharpest images never obtained.
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The JADES program started with NIRCam and used over 10 days of mission time to study the field in nine different infrared colors, resulting in exquisite images of the sky.
The region is 15 times larger than the deepest infrared images produced by the Hubble Space Telescope, but is still deeper and sharper at those wavelengths, NASA said.
The image is only the size a human appears when viewed from a mile away. Yet it’s teeming with nearly 100,000 galaxies, each captured at some point in their history, billions of years in the past.
Co-author Brant Robertson of the University of California, Santa Cruz, a member of the NIRCam science team, said: “For the first time, we discovered galaxies only 350 million years after the big bang, and we can be absolutely sure of their fantastic distances. Finding these early galaxies in images of such breathtaking beauty is a special experience.”
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Researchers are able to distinguish galaxies in the early universe by the “telltale look” of their color at multiple wavelengths in captured images.
As the universe expands, light is stretched in wavelength, and light from ancient galaxies has been stretched by up to a factor of 14.
Astronomer and co-author Stefano Carniani, from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Italy, said: “These are by far the faintest infrared spectra ever taken.
“They reveal what we had hoped to see: a precise measurement of the cut-off wavelength of light due to intergalactic hydrogen scattering.”