NASA's James Webb may have found the oldest galaxy we have ever seen in universetext_fields
Washington: The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's new infrared heavyweight, peered into the vast expanse and found a 13.5 billion-year-old galaxy, which researchers believe is the oldest galaxy ever detected. The powerful telescope's science operations began last week.
As per reports, the galaxy known as GLASS-z13 dates back to 300 million years after the Big Bang, about 100 million years earlier than anything previously identified, Rohan Naidu of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics told AFP.
"We're potentially looking at the most distant starlight that anyone has ever seen," he said.
Though GLASS-z13 existed in the earliest era of the universe, its exact age remains unknown as it could have formed anytime within the first 300 million years.
GLASS-z13 was spotted in so-called "early release" data from the orbiting observatory's main infrared imager, called NIRcam- but the discovery was not revealed in the first image set published by NASA last week.
When translated from infrared into the visible spectrum, the galaxy appears as a blob of red with white in its center, as part of a wider image of the distant cosmos called a "deep field."
Naidu and colleagues- a team totaling 25 astronomers from across the world- have submitted their findings to a scientific journal.
For now, the research is posted on a "preprint" server, so it comes with the caveat that it has yet to be peer-reviewed- but it has already set the global astronomy community abuzz.
Naidu said another team of astronomers led by Marco Castellano that worked on the same data has achieved similar conclusions, "so that gives us confidence."
One of the great promises of Webb is its ability to find the earliest galaxies that formed after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago.
Because these are so distant from Earth, by the time their light reaches us, it has been stretched by the expansion of the universe and shifted to the infrared region of the light spectrum, which Webb is equipped to detect with unprecedented clarity.
Launched last December and fully operational since last week, Webb is the most powerful space telescope ever built, with astronomers confident it will herald a new era of discovery.