Two new images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope show what may be among the oldest galaxies ever observed. Both images include objects more than 13 billion years old, and one of them provides a much wider field of view than Webb’s First Deep Field image, which was released with great fanfare on July 12. Astronomers and other academic researchers are collaborating with NASA and global partners to uncover new insights into the universe.
The team has identified something particularly interesting—named the Macy’s Galaxy in honor of project leader Stephen Finkelstein’s daughter—and they estimate it’s being observed because it was only 290 million years after the Big Bang (astronomers refer to a redshift of z=14).
The results are published on the prepress server arXiv It is awaiting publication in a refereed journal. If the discovery is confirmed, it will be one of the oldest galaxies ever observed, and its presence will indicate that galaxies began forming much earlier than many astronomers previously thought.
Unprecedentedly sharp images reveal a flurry of intricate galaxies evolving over time – some elegantly mature pinwheels, others little babies, and others still misty swirls of do-it-yourself neighbours. The images, which took about 24 hours to collect, were taken from a patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper, a constellation officially called Ursa Major. This region of the sky was previously observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, as seen in the extended Groth sector.
said Finkelstein, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin and principal investigator for the Early Cosmic Evolution Scientific Publication Survey (CEERS), from which these images were taken.
The CEERS Collaboration consists of 18 co-investigators from 12 institutions and more than 100 collaborators from the United States and nine other countries. CEERS researchers study how some of the first galaxies formed when the universe was less than 5% of its current age, during a period known as reionization.
Before the actual telescope data emerged, Micaela Bagley, a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin and one of the imaging pioneers at CEERS, created simulated images to help the team develop ways to process and analyze new images. Bagley led a group processing real images so the entire team could analyze the data.
The large image is a mosaic of 690 individual frames that took about 24 hours to collect using the telescope’s main imager, called the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). This new image covers an area of sky about eight times the size of Webb’s First Deep Field, although not quite as deep. The researchers used supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to process the raw images: Stampede2 was used to remove background noise and artifacts, and Frontera, the world’s most powerful supercomputer at a US university, was used to link the images together to form a single mosaic.
“The power of high-performance computing made it possible to combine countless images and keep frames in memory at once for processing, resulting in a single beautiful image,” Finkelstein said.
The other image was taken with a mid-infrared (MIRI) instrument. Compared to NIRcam, MIRI has a smaller field of view but operates with much higher spatial resolution than previous mid-infrared telescopes. MIRI detects wavelengths longer than NIRCam, allowing astronomers to see glowing cosmic dust from star-forming galaxies and black holes at modestly large distances, and to see light from older stars at very large distances.
The record for the most distant galaxy has been broken again, now only 250 million years after the Big Bang
Steven L. Finkelstein et al, Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away: A filter z~14 galaxies in early JWST CEERS imaging, arXiv (2022). arXiv: 2207.12474 [astro-ph.GA]arxiv.org/abs/2207.12474
Presented by the University of Texas at Austin
quotes: Wide view of the early universe hints at galaxy among oldest ever discovered (2022, Aug. 4) Retrieved Aug. 4, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-wide-view-early-universe -hints.html
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