Just a week after the first images of the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful ever created, it could already detect the most distant galaxy ever observed, which existed 13.5 billion years ago.
Called GLASS-z13, it appears to us as it was only about 300 million years after the Big Bang, 100 million years younger than the previous observed record, Rohan Naidoo of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard told AFP.
He is the principal author of a study analyzing publicly available data taken from James Webb’s first current observations and posted online for all astronomers on the planet.
One of the main tasks of this brand new telescope is to observe the first galaxies formed after the Big Bang, which occurred 13.8 billion years ago.
In astronomy, seeing far is like going back in time. Sunlight, for example, takes eight minutes to reach us, so we see it as it was eight minutes ago. Thus, by looking as far as possible, we can perceive light as it was emitted billions of years ago.
Light from this galaxy was emitted 13.5 billion years ago.
This study has not yet been peer-reviewed, but is published as a “preprint” to be quickly available to the expert community. It has been submitted to a scientific journal for future publication, Rohan Naidu said.
“Records in astronomy are already faltering,” NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted. “Yes, I tend to applaud only peer-reviewed scientific results. But this is very promising!” he added of the study.
According to Rohan Naidu, another research team also came up with the same results, which “gives him confidence.”
The galaxy was observed with the NiRcam instrument and was found in what is called a “deep field,” that is, a wider image taken with a long exposure to reveal the faintest reflections.
The peculiarity of James Webb is that he works only in the infrared range. The light emitted by older objects stretched and “reddened” along the way, passing into a wavelength that is not visible to the human eye.
Therefore, in order to draw an image of this galaxy, the data was “translated” into the visible spectrum: then it looks like a red circular shape with white in the center. Blurred point in the infinity of space.