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SPACE – Barely a week after revealing the first images of the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful ever designed, it may already have found the most distant galaxy ever observed, which existed 13.5 billion years ago years ago.
Named GLASS-z13, this galaxy looks like it would have been around 300 million years ago after the Big Bang, 100 million years shorter than the previously observed record, Rohan Naidu told AFP. , from the Harvard Center for Astrophysics.
This astrophysicist is the lead author of a study analyzing data from the first observations of the telescope, which is currently underway. This data is posted online for every astronomer on the planet. One of the main tasks of this brand new telescope is to observe the first galaxies formed after the Big Bang, which took place 13.8 billion years ago.
A red spot in the cosmos
In astronomy, looking far is like going back in time. For example, sunlight takes eight minutes to reach us, so we see it as it was eight minutes ago. By looking as far as possible, we can therefore perceive objects as they were billions of years ago.
The light from this galaxy was emitted 13.5 billion years ago. This study has not yet been peer-reviewed, but published as a “preprint” to be quickly available to the expert community. It has been submitted to a scientific journal for forthcoming publication, Rohan Naidu said.
But already many astronomers enthusiastically commented on this discovery on social networks. “Records in astronomy are already faltering,” tweeted Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. Another research team also concluded the same results, according to Rohan Naidu, which “gives him confidence”.
Paper Day! “Two Remarkably Bright Galaxy Candidates at z~11-13 Revealed by the Just Wonderful Space Telescope”. T… https://t.co/BmU5AGvYYF
—Rohan Naidu (@Rohan_Naidu)
“Very soon after the Big Bang”
The galaxy was observed by James Webb’s NiRcam instrument and detected in what is called a “deep field,” that is, a wider image taken with a long exposure time to detect the faintest lights.
The special feature of James Webb is that it only works in the infrared. Light emitted by older objects stretched and “reddened” along the way, passing into the wavelength not visible to the human eye.
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In order to draw a picture of this galaxy, the data has therefore been “translated” into the visible spectrum: it then appears as a red circular shape, rather blurred and white in the centre. In fact, the twenty or so scientists who took part in the study studied two galaxies, the second one called GLASS-z11, which is less distant.
They have surprising characteristics, given the little we already know: “They appear quite massive”, according to Rohan Naidu, and this from “very shortly after the Big Bang”. “It’s something we don’t really understand,” he added.
“There is still work to be done”
The scientist and his colleagues asked for more observing time with the telescope to perform spectroscopic analyses: a technique for determining the properties of a distant object by analyzing the collected light. This should confirm their distance.
The James Webb telescope was launched into space about six months ago. It is worth 10 billion dollars, it is 1.5 million kilometers from us and would have enough fuel to run for 20 years. James Webb would risk showering us with new cosmic discoveries.
Also look at The HuffPost: Check out James Webb’s stunning photos