James Webb Telescope: What has NASA’s telescope discovered?

The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s new infrared heavyweight, peered into the vast expanse and found a 13.5-billion-year-old galaxy, which researchers believe is the oldest ever detected. Science operations of the powerful telescope began last week.

The spinning collection of stars, gas and dust held together by gravity dates to 300 million years after the Big Bang. This exceeds by 100 million years the previous record for the oldest and most distant galaxy ever detected, a record held by a galaxy known as GN-Z1. When GN-Z1 was detected by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2016, light from the galaxy had taken 13.4 billion years to reach Hubble.

The researchers, from the Harvard Center for Astrophysics and the Smithsonian in Massachusetts, also discovered a second called GLASS-z11.

Both galaxies have a mass equivalent to a billion Suns, which the team suggests is what would be expected from 500 million years, which could indicate that stars formed even earlier than scientists think.

They are also relatively small compared to our own Milky Way, which is 100,000 light-years in diameter; GLASS-z13 is approximately 1,600 light-years across, while GLASS-z11 is 2,300 light-years across.

“We have found two very compelling candidates for extremely distant galaxies,” Rohan Naidu, a graduate student in the university’s astronomy department, told New Scientist.

“If these galaxies are as far apart as we think they are, the universe is only a few hundred million years old at that point.”

The James Webb Space Telescope may be able to look further back and discover galaxies only 200 million years old and could, as the researchers say in their findings, published online, be a “crucial step in fulfilling JWST’s mission to chart the cosmic dawn.”

In turn, NASA has also recently published the first images of Jupiter and its moons Europa, Teba and Metis taken by the telescope.

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