The James Webb Telescope has achieved a groundbreaking milestone in the realm of astronomy. It has discovered the four most remote galaxies ever seen, one of which was formed just 320 million years after the Big Bang. This was when the universe was still in its infancy. The instrument has an unparalleled capability to detect infrared light, making it possible to identify galaxies that have never been seen before. These discoveries could lead to a transformation in our understanding of the universe’s early years.
Looking back in Time
The telescope has been operational for a year and has already unveiled a wealth of scientific knowledge, enabling us to view further into the universe than ever before. As a result, the telescope is also capable of looking back in time. The Webb telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) can detect infrared light, allowing it to identify galaxies that have not been seen before. The detection of these galaxies is published in two papers in the journal Nature Astronomy.
How old are these Galaxies?
Astronomers reported that they have “unambiguously detected” the four most distant galaxies ever observed, with the galaxies dating back from 300 to 500 million years after the Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago. During this period, the first stars emerged, and this era is known as “the epoch of reionization.” This period came right after the cosmic dark ages that were created by the Big Bang.
James Webb Telescope Discovers Four Most Distant Galaxies Ever Observed
Mass vs. Activity
The galaxies found are “very low in mass,” according to researcher Stephane Charlot from the Astrophysics Institute of Paris. These galaxies weigh roughly a hundred million solar masses, whereas the Milky Way weighs an estimated 1.5 trillion solar masses. However, the galaxies are “very active in star formation in proportion to their mass,” Charlot said. These stars formed “at around the same rate as the Milky Way,” which was “surprising so early in the Universe.”
The James Webb Telescope’s NIRCam instrument is a technical marvel that is being celebrated by astronomers worldwide. Pieter van Dokkum, an astronomer at Yale University, praised the confirmation of the four newly-discovered remote galaxies as a “technical tour de force.” “The frontier is moving almost every month,” van Dokkum said, adding that there is now “only 300 million years of unexplored history of the universe between these galaxies and the Big Bang.”
A Significant Step
The James Webb Telescope has observed possible galaxies that are even closer to the Big Bang, but they have yet to be confirmed, van Dokkum said. The discovery of these galaxies is significant, as it opens up new areas of study and potentially changes our understanding of the universe’s earliest moments. With each new breakthrough, astronomers are a step closer to unraveling the secrets of the universe.