James Webb Space Telescope Spots New Impossible Galaxies

James Webb Space Telescope Spots New Impossible Galaxies

  • THE James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) spotted six galactic candidates who should not exist.
  • The galaxies formed around 500 to 700 million years after the Big Bang and are each thought to be roughly the size of the Milky Way.
  • If these galaxies are confirmed, their discovery will challenge nearly every model we have of our ancient universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) continues to show us that the definition of “impossible” in the universe is not as rigid as one might think.

A team of international researchers recently discovered six galaxies in the telescope’s first data set – galaxies from the very early universe that simply shouldn’t exist. They are thought to have formed incredibly early in the cosmological timeline, only about 500 to 700 million years after the big Bang.

It’s not that galaxies weren’t forming back then, because they were. But they weren’t like that. Those spotted in this study are, based on previous research and models, too red to be as bright as them, and too bright to be as red as them.

Their bold color is what marks these galaxies as so ancient. As the the universe expands and objects move away from us faster and faster, the light they produce stretches out more and more. And the further the light stretches, the redder it appears. Objects moving towards us, on the other hand, appear blue because their motion compresses the light instead of stretching it.

This elongation of light is called redshift, and it’s one of the ways astronomers date things in the universe. Incredibly old things, like these galaxies, have very high redshifts and appear bright red in observational data.

But not only are these galaxies red, but their brightness indicates that they are large. Much bigger than they should be. Calculations by the research team suggest that these six galactic candidates are each roughly the size of our own Milky Way.

And according to almost all of our best models, there simply shouldn’t have been enough things present in the universe this early to form these things. Objects are so “impossible” in fact that, according to one statementthe team unofficially referred to them as “universe breakers”.

Now, there is a chance that these detections are false alarms. This is just the first set of data from JWST, and because the telescope wasn’t specifically trying to collect information about these objects, some of it is missing. They might turn out to be something else entirely when we take a second look at them, like fainting quasars– a type of active galactic nucleus where dust and debris fall into a black hole in such a way that it produces large amounts of electromagnetic radiation.

But if follow-up observations confirm that these objects are in fact massive galaxies from the start of the universe, we have a lot of rewriting to do. These galaxies being real would disagree with about 99% of our current models of the early universe, requiring serious re-investigation of a question that many researchers thought was pretty much settled.

“The funny thing is we have all these things that we hope to learn from James Webb and that was nowhere near the top of the list,” said Joel Leja, one of the study’s authors. , in a Press release. “We found something we never thought we’d ask the universe for.”

Portrait of Jackie Appel

Deputy News Editor

Jackie is a writer and editor from Pennsylvania. She particularly enjoys writing about space and physics, and enjoys sharing the weird wonders of the universe with anyone who wants to listen. She is watched in her home office by her two cats.

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