Webb Telescope Sees Distant Galaxies


Stars and galaxy sky background | Image by JaySi, Shutterstock

The James Webb Space Telescope has managed to peer back into the early days of the universe. Scientists detailed findings of new distant galaxies in a study published in Nature on February 22.

Scientists identified six new incredibly massive galactic objects that existed between 500 million and 700 million years after the Big Bang. Joel Leja, the study’s co-author and assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, said in a press release from the university that the telescope allowed researchers to observe the universe 13.5 billion years in the past, near its beginning.

The James Webb Space Telescope was also instrumental in allowing NASA scientists to observe the structure of 19 closer spiral galaxies.

“The clarity with which we are seeing the fine structure certainly caught us by surprise,” said David Thilker of Johns Hopkins University, according to a press release from NASA.

“This is our first glimpse back this far, so it’s important that we keep an open mind about what we are seeing,” said Leja in the Penn State press release. “While the data indicates they are likely galaxies, I think there is a real possibility that a few of these objects turn out to be obscured supermassive black holes,” he continued.

Researchers claimed that these structures are changing the current understanding of the universe due to the fact that they defy 99% of previous models for distant galaxies, dubbing them “universe breakers.”

“These objects are way more massive​ than anyone expected,” said Leja, according to the press release. “We expected only to find tiny, young, baby galaxies at this point in time, but we’ve discovered galaxies as mature as our own in what was previously understood to be the dawn of the universe,” he continued.

Researchers in the study said that the objects must still be confirmed with the use of spectroscopy.

Leja said that the spectroscopic data will not only confirm the findings in the study but also allow scientists to determine the distance and makeup of the objects.

“We’ve found something we never thought to ask the universe — and it happened way faster than I thought, but here we are,” said Leja.

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