Has the James Webb Telescope found the most distant galaxy yet?

A discovery which has not yet been fully confirmed, but which already makes all astronomers jubilant.

It’s been just over a week since NASA finally graced us with the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and astronomers still have some spectacular discoveries to make. Today, a team announced the likely discovery of the most distant and oldest galaxy ever observed!

According to Rohan Naidu, team leader at the prestigious Harvard Center for Astrophysics, this galaxy called GLASS-z13 was actually born 300 million years after the Big Bang, whose age is estimated at 13.8 billion years. She is therefore at least 100 million years older than the current defending champion, GN-z11.

We have potentially the most distant starlight anyone has ever seen. “, he explains to AFP. But his exact age is yet to be determined. In fact, it could have formed almost any time during the 300 million year window after the Big Bang, and is currently about 13 billion light years away.

© Naidu et al.

Works not yet published but already praised

Currently, the research paper produced by Naidu and his international team of 25 astronomers has just entered the peer review process. Other astronomers will therefore look at the raw data and the researchers’ interpretation; if they believe that the method is sufficiently solid and the results convincing, GLASS-z13 can officially be proud of these records.

Usually, specialists prefer to wait for the end of this process before declaring victory. But in this specific case, the case seems extremely solid. Even Thomas Zurbruchen, the great scientific research at NASA, known for his intransigence, already welcomes this great discovery.

Astronomical records are already crumbling “, he says in a tweet. “ Yes, I usually wait for the scientific results to pass through peer review. But it looks very promising! “, he rejoices.

Naidu shares the same interpretation. ” The evidence is strong, but there is still work to be done “, he explains. Now he and his team hope to be able to book observing time with JWST again.

A taste of Webb’s unique abilities

They will probably have to wait a while, as the machine is apparently very popular among astronomers worldwide. But once they have access to it again, they intend to point the real Webb mirrors back at GLASS-z13, whose position is now known with good precision. They will thus be able to perform much more advanced spectroscopic analyzes to confirm the identity of this galaxy.

They may also be interested in some very surprising qualities that they have already demonstrated. For example, according to scientists’ preliminary estimates, this galaxy would weigh the equivalent of a billion suns, which is very surprising for a galaxy formed at the dawn of the universe. ” It’s something we don’t really understand Naidu slips, visibly confused.

In any case, it’s certain that JWST will have its work cut out for it. Remember that this is only at the beginning of his great adventure. Given the scientific marvels he’s already brought back from his spaceship, it’s safe to say that new discoveries at least as exceptional will continue to rain down for years to come.

The pre-publication research paper is available here.

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