Two new images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope show what may be among the oldest galaxies ever observed. Both images include objects from more than 13 billion years ago, and provide a much wider field of view than Webb’s first Deep Field image, which was released to great fanfare on July 12. The images represent some of a major collaboration as astronomers and other academic researchers worked closely with NASA and global partners to uncover new insights about the universe.
The team has identified a particularly exciting object—called Massey’s galaxy—in honor of the daughter of project head Steven Finkelstein—they estimate it to be observed just 290 million years after the Big Bang (astronomers call it z = 14’s redshift) )
The search is published on the preprint server arXiv and awaits publication in a peer-reviewed journal. If the discovery is confirmed, it would be one of the oldest galaxies ever observed, and its presence indicates that the formation of galaxies began much earlier than many astronomers previously thought.
unprecedented fast Images reveals a flurry of complex galaxies that have evolved over time—some beautifully mature pinwheels, others blobby toddlers, yet others the blurry swirls of two-see-to-do neighbors. The images, which took about 24 hours to collect, are from a patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper, a constellation formally named Ursa Major. This same region of sky was previously observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, as seen in the Extended Growth Strip.
“It’s amazing to see a single point of light from Hubble turn into a whole, beautifully shaped galaxy in these new James Webb images, and other galaxies out of nowhere,” said Finkelstein, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Texas. Austin and principal investigator of the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey (CEERS), from which these images were taken.
The CEERS collaboration includes 18 co-investigators from 12 institutions and more than 100 collaborators from the US and nine other countries. Researchers at CEERS are studying how some of the earliest galaxies formed when the universe was less than 5% of its current age, during a period known as re-ionization.
Before the actual telescope data arrived, Michaela Bagley, a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin and one of the CERS imaging leads, created the simulated images to help the team develop methods for processing and analyzing the new imagery. Bagley led a group processing the actual images so that the data could be analyzed by the entire team.
The large image is a mosaic of 690 separate frames that took about 24 hours to be collected using the telescope’s main imager, called the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). This new image covers an area of sky about eight times larger than Webb’s first Deep Field image, although it is not as deep. Researchers used supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center for initial image processing: Stampede 2 was used to remove background noise And the artifacts, and Frontera, the world’s most powerful supercomputer at an American university, were used to piece together the images to form a mosaic.
“High-performance computing power made it possible to combine myriad images and hold the frames in memory at once for processing, resulting in a single beautiful image,” Finkelstein said.
The second image was taken with the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). Compared to NIRcam, MIRI has a smaller field of view, but operates at a much higher spatial resolution than previous mid-infrared telescopes. Detects MIRI long wavelength Compared to NIRCam, allows astronomers to see cosmic dust glowing from star-forming galaxies And black holes see light at moderately large distances, and at very large distances from older stars.
Steven L. Finkelstein et al, A Long Time Ego in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: A Candidate Z~14 Galaxy in Early JWST CERS Imaging, arXiv (2022). arXiv: 2207.12474 [astro-ph.GA], arxiv.org/abs/2207.12474
University of Texas at Austin
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