Illustrative photo – James Webb Space Telescope (on a 2015 NASA image).
Washington – The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has discovered large distant galaxies that, according to scientific assumptions, should not exist because they come from an early stage of the universe's evolution. The scientific server Space.com informs about it.
Astronomers are shocked to discover that giant and advanced galaxies apparently existed relatively shortly after the Big Bang, i.e. the creation of the universe. According to Space.com, no one expected this and no one can explain how these galaxies formed.
Galaxies roughly the size of our Milky Way and fully mature red stars captured in images of the far reaches of space taken during JWST's initial observations. The galaxies described in the new study are so distant that they appear only as reddish dots even to a powerful telescope. By analyzing the light they emit, astronomers have concluded that they are looking at the “childhood” of the universe just 500,000 to 700,000 years after the Big Bang.
Galaxies this early are not surprising in themselves. Astronomers expected that the first star clusters appeared shortly after the universe passed the so-called dark ages, roughly the first 400,000 years of its existence, when only a fog of hydrogen atoms permeated the universe.
Galaxies from JWST images, however, are shockingly large and the stars in them too old. The new findings contradict existing ideas about how the universe looked and evolved in the early period, and they also do not match the observations of the Webb telescope's predecessor, the Hubble telescope.
“We had a concrete explanation for the type of galaxies that existed in the early universe: They're young and small,” astronomer Joel Leja of Pennsylvania State University and one of the study's co-authors told Space.com. Previous studies of the early universe, based on observations by Hubble and other instruments, described rather small, blue, “baby” galaxies in the early universe, according to Leya. So these were objects that arose only recently from the original “cosmic soup” and formed their own young stars and structures.
Young stars generally shine blue. Over time, they turn red as they burn their fuel. In ancient galaxies, not those targeted by the Webb telescope, astronomers did not expect old red stars. Nor did they expect to find galaxies more massive than about a billion suns. However, the reddish points indicate that they are fifty times more massive.
The James Webb telescope has been observing the universe from a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from Earth since last January. The device, the most powerful of its kind to date, worth ten billion dollars (CZK 223 billion), is a project of NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency CSA.