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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is discovering new distant galaxies

The oldest galaxy ever found was recently discovered and confirmed NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

But astrophysicist Brant Robertson, who helped make the discovery as part of the JADES team, said he doesn’t expect the current record to stand for much longer. The telescope is so powerful that it is expected to find even earlier galaxies, he told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pell.

“If you spend enough time, you can probably find a galaxy that formed in the Universe,” Robertson said. “It’s really powerful.”

The telescope was launched on Christmas Day 2021 and is on a mission to find light from the first stars and galaxies. Since its successful launch, it has captured its stunning image Shortly before the star’s death And galaxies only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.


Carina Nebula


Robertson of the University of California, Santa Cruz, helps lead the WEB’s most ambitious mission, JADES, the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey. This survey led to the discovery of a galaxy 33 billion light years away. It was formed 320 million years after the Big Bang.

So far, Robertson’s team has discovered two galaxies when the universe was only 2 percent of its current age. One of them is forming stars at about the same rate as the Milky Way, although it is 100 times less massive.

“So it’s really like a hummingbird, the heartbeat of this galaxy is racing,” Robertson said.

Astronomers and astrophysicists analyze the spectrum of light captured by the web. They can measure how fast galaxies form stars, estimate the number of stars in galaxies, and more.

Erica Nelson, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is part of a team investigating five giant galaxies that may have formed shortly after the Big Bang.

“Either it’s wrong or it’s a huge discovery, and we think it’s a huge discovery,” Nelson said.

More observations are needed, but Nelson said that, if confirmed, the discovery would shatter the theory of how the early universe formed.

“And that’s the most exciting part, of this telescope, of this extraordinary instrument we’ve put into space, is to find things that we didn’t expect, that we can’t explain,” he said. “Because it means that we have to revise our understanding of the universe.”


James Webb Space Telescope

NASA, SkyWorks Digital, Northrop Grumman, STScI

The web will discover more in the coming years. Matt Mountain, who manages Webb’s operations for NASA as president of AURA, believes the observatory could last up to 25 years. With the Web, says Mountain, “there is no empty sky.”

“Almost every image that we’re taking now, we see galaxies everywhere. I mean, we took a simple image of a planet in our own system, Neptune. You know, it’s just this beautiful orbit sitting there and we see some rings. Again in the background. There are galaxies,” said Mountain. “It tells us that our universe is full of galaxies. We knew that in theory, but when you go to the night sky, we’re used to saying, ‘Well, look at the night sky, we can see those stars.’ We can’t say that anymore. We have to say now, ‘Look at the night sky and there are galaxies everywhere.’

Webb’s primary mission is to reveal the moment when stars and galaxies first ignited after the Big Bang, “let there be light.” strong $10 billion telescope25 years in the making, considered a 32-year-old successor Hubble.

The web captures a direct image the planet Located outside our solar system. It has been used to obtain thousands of highly detailed images The young stars have never been seen before In a region known as the Tarantula Nebula. The telescope also showed intricate details of previously unseen stars and giant clouds of gas “Pillars of Creation.”

Because the web captures infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, Alyssa Pagan and Joe Depasquale followed a scientifically rigorous method to take data from the web and match it to wavelengths to reveal amazing images to people. Pagan and Depasquale are among the first people in history to see the cosmic discovery image captured by the web.

“It’s a great honor and it blows your mind every time,” Pagan said.

Some discoveries have stunned even the experts. Purdue University astronomer Dan Milisavljevic studies the explosions, which are the reactors that produced the first heavy elements from the cosmos of simple helium and hydrogen. The web reveals unprecedented detail at the epicenters of these explosions, Milisvaljevic said.

“Every time a supernova explodes, it creates the raw materials for life: the iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones, the oxygen we breathe,” Milisvaljevic said. “All being created in supernova explosions.”

Even as it’s helping astronomers and astrophysicists learn more, the Webb Telescope is a reminder of how much we don’t know about the universe, Mountain said. For example, Mountain said, little is known about dark energy and dark matter, two elements believed to make up most of the universe.

“We’re lucky if we understand 4 percent of our universe today,” Mountain said.


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