James Webb Space Telescope Helps Locate Most Distant Galaxy Ever Discovered

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: 24K-Production

The James Webb Space Telescope has discovered a remote galaxy just 350 million years after the creation of the cosmos. According to researchers, the discovery has flabbergasted astronomers, as they now try to understand how stars and galaxies could have been created so quickly following the Big Bang.

“These observations just make your head explode,” said Paola Santini, a co-author of a paper describing the discovery in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “This is a whole new chapter in astronomy. It’s like an archaeological dig, and suddenly you find a lost city or something you didn’t know about. It’s just staggering.”

Scientists and researchers are still trying to figure out when the earliest stars appeared after the “dark ages” ended.

“I think anything earlier than 100 million years would just be really weird,” said Garth Illingworth, a Webb astronomer and professor at the University of California Santa Cruz.

He added: “We were mostly thinking a couple of hundred million years was likely to be where the very first things formed. But these galaxies potentially are so massive that it may push us back earlier than that two hundred. This is really a great open question — when did the first stars form? And so these galaxies, I think, will be a pathfinder to that.”

James Webb Telescope finds multiple galaxies, astronomers still puzzled about their ages

The examined galaxy is GLASS-z12, appearing 350 million years after the Big Bang. It also found another galaxy going back 450 million years. It was discovered found just four days as part of the Grism Lens-Amplified Survey from Space, or GLASS.

The James Webb telescope found the distant galaxies being gravitationally magnified by the mass of a closer universe.

However, the precise ages of the discovered galaxies are not yet confirmed. However, astronomers said they see signs of several potentially older galaxies. This would indicate star formation even closer to the Big Bang.

“These galaxies would have had to have started coming together maybe just 100 million years after the Big Bang,” Illingworth said in a statement. “Nobody expected that the dark ages would have ended so early. The primal universe would have been just one hundredth its current age. It’s a sliver of time in the 13.8 billion-year-old evolving cosmos.”

According to Tommaso Treu, principal investigator for the GLASS project, the survey was meant “to be a way for the astronomical community to get a quick look at what surprises the universe had prepared for us.”

He said: “And the universe and JWST did not let us down. As soon as we started taking data, we discovered there are many more luminous distant galaxies than we had been expecting. Somehow, the universe has managed to form galaxies faster and earlier than we thought.”

He continued: “Just a few 100 million years after the Big Bang there are lots of galaxies. JWST has opened up a new frontier, bringing us closer to understanding how it all began. And we have just started to explore it.”

The new telescope is the most impressive space observatory ever launched. It’s complete with a segmented 21.3-foot-wide mirror, four cameras, and spectroscopic detectors.