The James Webb Space Telescope has scrutinized another former Hubble Space Telescope target, this time revealing surprising details in a galaxy as distant as it existed shortly after the big bang at the dawn of the universe.
NASA released the new Webb telescope image Wednesday morning in a blog post that also featured an interview with the scientists behind the observation, astronomer Dan Coe of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Tiger Yu-Yang Hsiao. , an astronomer from Johns Hopkins University and astronomer Rebecca Larson of the University of Texas at Austin.
The focus of the scientists’ ongoing research is MACS0647-JD, a galaxy billions of light years away, first discovered by Dr. Coe 10 years ago using the Hubble telescope.
“With Hubble, it was just this pale red spot. We could say that it was really small, just a tiny galaxy in the first 400 million years of the universe, “he said.” Now we look with Webb and we can solve TWO objects! We are actively discussing whether it is two galaxies or two groups of stars within a galaxy “.
“It is really interesting to see two structures in such a small system,” Dr Hsiao added in a statement. “We could see a merger of galaxies in the early universe.”
MACS0647-JD is not immediately noticeable in the sea of gem-like galaxies seen in the newly released image. Scientists can’t view galaxies that far away directly even with the powerful Webb telescope, so they use the gravity of a huge star cluster between Webb and MACS0647-JD to zoom in on the background galaxy, a technique known as gravitational lensing.
In this case, the scientists used the gravity of a star cluster known as MACS0647 as a “lens” to study the galaxy MACS0647-JD. The lensing process causes the background galaxy to appear in three different positions in the main image, which are indicated and then inflated into a sidebar.
“Due to the gravitational lensing of the massive cluster of galaxies MACS0647, it was transformed into three images: JD1, JD2 and JD3,” said Dr Coe. “They are magnified by factors of eight, five and two, respectively.”
The study of galaxies so far away can help scientists understand how the very first galaxies formed and evolved, and from this better understand how our galaxy was born and what its final destiny could be.
The Webb telescope was launched in December 2021 after more than 20 years of development designed to allow it to study precisely these types of extremely distant objects and, according to Dr. Larson, this is just the beginning.
“I think my favorite part is, for so many new Webb images we get, if you look in the background, there are all these little dots and those are all galaxies! Any of them, “he said in a statement.” And this isn’t a deep field. This isn’t a long exposure. We haven’t even tried to use this telescope to look at a point for a long time. This is just the beginning!