Breaking his own record in just two weeks.
Two weeks ago astronomers announced that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may have seen the most distant galaxy ever identified, one that existed some 300 million years after the Big Bang. Now scientists have once again unexpectedly found an even older galaxy in the JWST data, and this one was present only 235 million years after the Big Bang.
The galaxy, named CEERS-93316, was captured by the new space telescope as it existed just 235 million years after the Big Bang. This means that this light had to travel for 13,565 million years through space to reach us, but as the Universe expands it is estimated that it is now a whopping 35 billion years.
For the photograph, Webb used the Near Infrared Camera, which allows one to go back further in time to the earliest galaxies. It is something that surprises us a lot since just two weeks ago a galaxy called GLASS-z13 showed promise to be the oldest ever seen. Although we must clarify that in both cases the results are still preliminary, in other words, they need to be confirmed.
The current research appears on the arXiv preprint site. According to the science website Live Science, to confirm that the galaxy is as old as its redshift suggests, astronomers will use spectroscopy to analyze the magnitude of light over a range of wavelengths for all galaxies that the Webb’s Near Infrared Spectrograph instrument has found so far. This will not only reveal the light age of the galaxies, but also their chemical composition, size and temperatures.
The Universe began 13.8 billion years ago, when the Big Bang happened, for 400 thousand years afterwards everything was a cold and dark fog of hydrogen and helium atoms. After 400 million years the light had already been made, and the brightness was noticeable in the midst of the nascent galaxies. Somewhere in between, the first stars and also the first galaxies must have formed, it’s not known specifically when, so to find a galaxy in the first 300 million years is…really impressive.
It is unknown exactly when the first galaxies arose, until now the record for the oldest galaxy is held by the Hubble Space Telescope, it is called GN-z11 and dates back to 400 million years after the Big Bang. If the new James Webb calculations are correct, it will break the record by about 165 million years.
Thanks to the fact that light needs time to travel, we can continue to see these first stars and galaxies even if they no longer exist, the light that they emitted one day continues to travel through space and when it reaches our telescopes, these distant observations allow astronomers measure the changes throughout the life of the Universe. Webb has the ability to look up to 100 million light-years after the Big Bang, so we can say that it won’t be long before he shows another record.
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