The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a remarkable NASA instrument, recently made an exciting discovery in a part of space known as Pandora’s Cluster or Abell 2744.
Researchers led by a team from Penn State University have found the second and fourth most distant galaxies ever seen.
This is a big deal because these galaxies are incredibly far away, almost 33 billion light years from Earth!
A look into the early universe
These distant galaxies give us a unique look back into the past.
The light we see from them today was emitted when the universe was just 330 million years old, which is quite young considering the age of the universe.
Interestingly, the light traveled about 13.4 billion light-years to reach the JWST. However, as the universe continues to expand, these galaxies are now about 33 billion light-years away from us.
Unique shapes in the cosmos
What sets these galaxies apart is their size and shape. Unlike other distant galaxies, which usually look like tiny red dots in images, these new ones are much larger.
One looks like a peanut and the other like a fluffy ball, which is quite unusual and fascinating for astronomers. This discovery was detailed in an article in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The challenge of studying early galaxies
Studying these ancient galaxies is important for understanding the early universe.
Bingjie Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Penn State University and a member of the JWST UNCOVER team, explains that we still have a lot to learn about early galaxy formation. Before this discovery, only three galaxies had been confirmed to be so far away.
A fascinating aspect of this discovery is how it helps us understand the past. Joel Leja, an assistant professor at Penn State, points out that the light from these galaxies is three times older than Earth.
Shining through the thin hydrogen gas that filled the early universe, these galaxies acted like beacons that help us understand the physics of this era.
Surprising size and variety
What surprises astronomers is the size of these galaxies. One of them is six times larger than expected and spans about 2,000 light-years across.
This is interesting because the early universe was thought to be quite compressed.
The diversity of properties of these galaxies is also fascinating, as they have different properties despite being made of similar materials.
The role of gravitational lensing
The JWST used a phenomenon called gravitational lensing to discover these galaxies. This happens when the gravity of a massive object, such as a galaxy cluster, bends and amplifies the light from objects behind it. This natural magnification effect helped the telescope see these distant galaxies.
These discoveries were part of JWST’s first year scientific activities. This telescope has powerful infrared instruments that could potentially find galaxies even further away.
However, researchers note that the failure to find galaxies beyond this could indicate either the limits of galaxy formation or the need for a larger observation window.
A milestone for astronomy
This discovery is a significant achievement in the field of astronomy and a testament to the power of the James Webb Space Telescope.
It shows the potential for future discoveries that could further reveal the secrets of the early universe.
Source: Penn State.