- NASA’s new space telescope has discovered six massive galaxies in the early universe
- The discovery upends what experts previously believed about the origins of galaxies
NASA’s new Super Space Telescope is being built to go back to the dawn of time and give us clues about how the universe came to be.
In less than a year, James Webb has already wowed us with incredible images – but now he’s challenging our understanding of the origins of galaxies.
This is because the $10 billion (£7.4 billion) observatory has just discovered six massive galaxies in the early universe that are far too old to actually exist.
“These objects are much more massive than anyone expected,” said Joel Lega, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State.
We only expected to find young, young galaxies at this point in time, but we have detected mature galaxies like our own in what was previously understood to be the dawn of the universe.
The researchers said their new discovery ‘pushes the boundaries of our understanding of cosmology’ and suggests that galaxies grew faster than expected early in the history of the universe.
“We informally called these things the Universe Shatterer — and they’ve lived up to their name so far,” Lega said.
He added that the galaxies were so large that they came into conflict with 99 percent of cosmology models.
To account for the high mass, it means that these models will either have to change, or astronomers will have to change their basic understanding of how galaxies formed in the early universe.
That is, it began as small clouds of stars and dust that gradually grew larger over time.
Whichever way scientists turn, Lega said it will require a fundamental rethinking of how the universe came to be.
“The revelation that the formation of massive galaxies began so early in the history of the universe upends what many of us thought was established science,” Lega said.
He said the international team of researchers had “no idea what we were going to find” when they looked at Webb’s first batch of data from the early universe.
It turns out that we’ve found something so unexpected that it’s creating problems for science. It calls into question the full picture of early galaxy formation, Lega added.
the The new findings show that the six galaxies were as mature as our own Milky Way when the universe was only 3 percent of its current age – about 500-700 million years after the Big Bang.
Webb can see as far back as 13.5 billion years — about two million years after the universe formed — because he has Infrared sensors are able to detect the light emitted by the oldest stars and galaxies.
“This is the first glimpse of the retrospective so far, so it’s important that we open our minds about what we’re seeing,” Lega said.
While the data indicates that they are most likely galaxies, I think there is a very real possibility that a few of these objects could become obscured supermassive black holes.
Regardless, the amount of mass we’ve detected means that the known mass in stars in this period of our universe is up to 100 times greater than we previously thought.
“Even if we cut the sample in half, it’s still an amazing change.”
The search was carried out using Spectral data and Webb’s first full-color images, released by NASA in July last year.
“When we got the data, everyone just started diving in and these huge things appeared very quickly,” Lega said.
We started doing modeling and tried to figure out what it was, because it was so big and bright.
My first thought was that we made a mistake and we will find it and move on with our lives. But we haven’t found this bug yet, despite a lot of trying.
That would be the way for astronomers to confirm his team’s findings, Lega said To take a spectroscopic image of massive galaxies.
He added that this will provide data on the true distances of the galaxies as well as the gases and other elements that make up them, which in turn will allow experts to form a clearer picture of how massive these galaxies really are.
“The spectrum will tell us right away whether or not these things are real,” Lega said.
It will show us how big they are and how far away they are. What’s funny is we all have these things we hope to learn from James Webb and this one was nowhere near the top of the list.
“We’ve found something we never thought to put out into the universe – and it happened way faster than I thought, but here we go.”
The discovery has been published in the journal nature.
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