Exploration, News, Space

The most distant galaxies found by James Webb

Thanks to James Webb, astronomers found the most distant galaxies ever seen, existed 300 million years after the Big Bang.

Information about James Webb Space TelescopeClick here

Source: Phys.org

The discoveries were made by the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES) team. Daniel Eisenstein from the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) is one of the team leaders of JADES and Principal Investigator of the observing program that revealed these galaxies. Ben Johnson and Phillip Cargile, both Research Scientists at CfA, and Zihao Wu, a Harvard Ph.D. student at CfA, also played important roles.

Because of the expansion of the universe, the light from distant galaxies stretches to longer wavelengths as it travels. This effect is so extreme for these two galaxies that their ultraviolet light is shifted to infrared wavelengths where only JWST can see it. Because light takes time to travel, more distant galaxies are also seen as they were earlier in time.

The two record-breaking galaxies are called JADES-GS-z14-0 and JADES-GS-z14-1, the former being the more distant of the two. In addition to being the new distance record holder, JADES-GS-z14-0 is remarkable for how big and bright it is.

The JADES-GS-z14-0 seen by James Webb. The image is from the same news source.

“The size of the galaxy clearly proves that most of the light is being produced by large numbers of young stars,” said Eisenstein, a Harvard professor and chair of the astronomy department, “rather than material falling onto a supermassive black hole in the galaxy’s center, which would appear much smaller.”

The combination of the extreme brightness and the fact that young stars are fueling this high luminosity makes JADES-GS-z14-0 the most striking evidence yet found for the rapid formation of large, massive galaxies in the early universe.

This galaxy was discovered with the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), which also measured the redshift, locating the Lyman-alpha break (the red line), to determine the galaxy’s age. The image is from the same news source.

Evidence for surprisingly vigorous early galaxies appeared even in the first JWST images and has been mounting in the first two years of the mission. This trend runs counter to expectations that most astronomers had before the launch of JWST of theories of galaxy formation.

JADES-GS-z14-0 was a puzzle for the JADES team when they first spotted it over a year ago, as it appears close enough on the sky to a foreground galaxy that the team could not be sure that the two were not neighbors. But in October 2023, the JADES team conducted even deeper imaging—five full days with the JWST Near-Infrared Camera on just one field—and used filters designed to better isolate the earliest galaxies.

The galaxy is located in a field where the JWST Mid-Infrared Instrument had conducted an ultra-deep observation. Its brightness at intermediate infrared wavelengths is a sign of emission from hydrogen and even oxygen atoms in the early universe.

Emboldened, the team then obtained a spectrum of each galaxy, and confirmed their hopes that JADES-GS-z14-0 was indeed a record-breaking galaxy and that the fainter candidate, JADES-GS-z14-1, was nearly as far away.

A third paper led by Brant Robertson, professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and Ben Johnson, studies the evolution of this early population of galaxies.

All three papers are currently available on the arXiv preprint server.

About Pedro Ney Stroski

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *