With the help of the James Webb Space Telescope, a stunning image that depicts the oldest galaxy ever seen has been captured, opening a peek into ages past.
Only days after starting its science activities, the infrared space observatory discovered a 13.5 billion-year-old galaxy using its extraordinarily sensitive NIRCam sensor, according to two recent preprint articles.
In essence, Webb is allowing us to look into a galaxy that is foreign to us both because of how far away it is from Earth and because it was created only 300 million years after the Big Bang.
One of the key objectives of the Webb mission is to see the very first galaxies and provide fresh insight into the universe’s creation.
The oldest and furthest galaxy ever seen is GLASS-z13.
Last Monday, NASA unveiled the first breath-taking James Webb photos. Since then, the James Webb team has also made photos of Jupiter and Messier 74 available (M74). A fresh photograph of a far-off galaxy, whose light took 13.5 billion years to reach James Webb, has now been revealed to the globe.
The galaxy, known as GLASS-z13, surpasses the previous mark for the oldest and most distant galaxy ever discovered by a factor of 100 million years. The previous record was held by GN-Z1, a galaxy discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2016 at a distance of 13.4 billion lightyears.
On Wednesday, July 20, researchers from the Harvard and Smithsonian Centers for Astrophysics published two preprint articles about the new finding. They noted in their articles that they also discovered GLASS-z11, a galaxy with a similar age.
Both of the recently discovered galaxies, according to the astronomers, are modest in comparison to the Milky Way. The Milky Way is 100,000 lightyears across, GLASS-z13 is about 1,600 lightyears across, GLASS z-11 is about 2,300 lightyears across. Given that the Milky Way is more than 13 billion years old and has had more time to cannibalize younger galaxies, this is to be expected.
James Webb is much more than just that.
The scientists do want to carry out additional research to support their conclusions. One of the researchers, Rohan Naidu, spoke with New Scientist and stated “Two strong contenders for extremely far-off galaxies were discovered. The universe would only be a few hundred million years old at that time if these galaxies were located at the distance we believe they are.”
But given that James Webb is still just getting started with its science operations, the current discovery is all the more intriguing. The world-beating discovery made by Hubble resulted from a space telescope that was almost at the end of its useful life and at its limit. On the other hand, James Webb has only recently begun. The space observatory might be in use for ten years and is anticipated to endure at least five and a half. Over the next few years, there will be much more to delight astronomers and space fans everywhere.
This implies that it will probably discover a large number of candidates for the oldest and furthest galaxies ever observed. We have a better understanding of the precise formation and origin of the universe the closer we get to the Big Bang.