The first galaxies may have formed earlier than predicted

In just a few months, the new James Webb Space Telescope has identified many new young galaxies, including one that didn’t exist until 350 million years after the Big Bang.

The very first galaxies may have formed earlier than astronomers previously thought, according to early observations from the new James Webb Space Telescope, which in just a few months has already shattered scientific understanding of the cosmos. “Somehow the universe managed to form galaxies faster and sooner than we thought”, said Tommaso Treu, a professor of astronomy at UCLA University, at a news conference Thursday. One of the main tasks of the James Webb Telescope, which is in its fifth month of observations, is to study the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

“Massive” galaxies

Based on the developed cosmological models, scientists believed so “it would take” to find them, said astrophysicist Jeyhan Kartaltepe. In just a few months, however, James Webb has already identified many new young galaxies, including one that existed just 350 million years after the Big Bang – 50 million years less than the previous record. “It’s a surprise that so many formed so early”, commented Jeyhan Kartaltepe. In addition to their number, one thing amazed the scientists: their high luminosity.

“We immediately conclude that they are massive, and that raises a real puzzle: How could they form so many stars in such a short time?”, summarized Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz. To be able to do this “These galaxies should not have started forming until 100 million years after the Big Bang”he explained. “Nobody would have believed that the Middle Ages would end so soon”. An alternative hypothesis would be that these galaxies are indeed host to so-called Population III stars, which are very different from those we know. These very first stars, extraordinarily bright, have only been theorized, not observed.

The incredible capabilities of the James Webb Telescope have also revealed the appearance of some of these galaxies. “Our team was impressed to be able to measure the shape of these early galaxies”explained Erica Nelson of the University of Colorado, quoted in a NASA press release. “Their quiet, orderly disks challenge our understanding of how the first galaxies formed in a chaotic young Universe.” The exact distances of these young galaxies – including the one that broke the record – will have to be confirmed in the future thanks to spectroscopic analyzes also carried out with James Webb. But anyway, thanks to this new observatory “We are really well on our way to fulfilling this dream of understanding the galaxies of the first ages.”marveled Garth Illingworth.

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