Parachute understand the importance of this findingLet’s start this story at the beginning. In his first months of space observations, James Webb deployed his scientific arsenal to ‘look back in time’ and find light from the universe’s first stars and galaxies. In his first campaign of observations, he will take a snapshot of the cosmos when it was still in honeycombs. That is, between 500 and 700 million years after the Big Bang. Or what is the same, when the universe was only 3% of its current age.
The analysis of these revealed data six totally unexpected points of light that show what the cosmos was like in its origins. «We hope to find small, young galaxies, but we discover galaxies as mature as our Milky Way at a time that until now we understood as the dawn of the universe,» explains Joel Leja, an astrophysicist at Penn State University and one of the experts who led this study. «At the beginning I even think it must be a mistake, but analysis shows that it is not. We have discovered something that we never thought we would find in the universe», highlights the scientist.
«We have discovered something that we never thought or found in the universe»
Each of the discovered galaxies was the home to billions of stars the size of our sun. In at least one case, it is estimated that one of the galaxies had a mass equivalent to 100 billion stars like ours. do history has traveled through space for more than 13.5 billion years and it has come down to us through a dim reddish light captured by the lenses of James Webb. «We didn’t expect to see something so red and so bright,» he explains. Erica Nelsonresearcher at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of the study in which the portrait of these early galaxies is presented.
The discovery of these galaxies has been described as a true «universe breaker» (‘break-universes’). The existence of such massive objects at such an early point in the history of the universe turns 99% of the theories formulated upside down to date to explain the origins of the cosmos. Until now, in fact, it was believed that galaxies began to form billions of years after the Big Bang and that, at least initially, they appeared as small clouds of stars and dust that eventually grew larger over time. But if so, the existence of these large star clusters would probably be impossible.
«This finding has been so unexpected that it actually creates a problem»
«Any explanation requires a fundamental change in our understanding how the universe came to be,» argues Leja. «This finding has been so unexpected that it actually creates a problem for science. It puts in doubt the whole image that we had built on the early formation of galaxies», adds the expert. Above all, as revealed by the first batch of observations captured by James Webb, everything points to the fact that the early universe was much more complex and exciting than had been imagined until now.
The scientists who have led this work speak enthusiastically about how the use of this space observatory is multiplying space discoveries. In just six months of space travel, the James Webb telescope has managed to capture the spectacular birth of stars in the Carina Nebula, a quintet of galaxies colliding with each other, a dying star surrounded by a sea of sharpest ever captured from the distant universe. Those responsible for the mission argue that the Webb could remain active for almost ten years, so the history of its discoveries has only just begun.