The James Webb Space Telescope, launched into space on 25 December 2021 and taking incredible pictures of the universe since, has found six galaxies that have confounded scientists. In fact, the six galaxies, so far away they appear as just red dots to the powerful telescope, shouldn’t even exist. Such comes from Space.com, which reported that:
Nobody expected them. They were not supposed to be there. And now, nobody can explain how they had formed.
Galaxies nearly as massive as the Milky Way and full of mature red stars seem to be dispersed in deep field images obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb or JWST) during its early observation campaign, and they are giving astronomers a headache.
These galaxies, described in a new study based on Webb’s first data release, are so far away that they appear only as tiny reddish dots to the powerful telescope. By analyzing the light emitted by these galaxies, astronomers established that they were viewing them in our universe’s infancy only 500 to 700 million years after the Big Bang.
What’s wrong with them? They’re the wrong size. Early universe galaxies are supposed to be small, not massive, Milky Way-like galaxies. Such is what one of the study authors, Joel Leja, told Space. In her words, “We had specific expectations for the type of galaxies that live in the early universe: they are young and small. Previous studies of the early universe with Hubble and other instruments tend to find small, blue, baby galaxies at early times: objects which have just recently formed out of the primordial cosmic soup and are themselves building their early stars and structures.”
Continuing, Leja added “The most massive galaxies in our sample are estimated to have masses [two to four times lower] than that of our own Milky Way. This was astounding — we’re finding galaxy candidates as massive as our own galaxy when the universe was 3% of its current age.”
Similarly, the lead researcher, Ivo Labbe of Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, said “While most galaxies in this era are still small and only gradually growing larger over time, there are a few monsters that fast-track to maturity. Why this is the case or how this would work is unknown.”
And that’s not all. Leja added, in a statement reported on by the Hill, that the newly found galaxies are “universe breakers.” In Lega’s words: “The revelation that massive galaxy formation began extremely early in the history of the universe upends what many of us had thought was settled science. t turns out we found something so unexpected it actually creates problems for science. It calls the whole picture of early galaxy formation into question.”
The Hill, reporting on what makes the new telescope special, reporting on what makes the James Webb Space Telescope different than its predecessor, the famous Hubble Telescope, reports that “Unlike Hubble, the bigger and more powerful Webb can peer through clouds of dust with its infrared vision and discover galaxies previously unseen. Scientists hope to eventually observe the first stars and galaxies formed following the creation of the universe 13.8 billion years ago.”
So, whatever the explanation for the galaxies, it seems scientists should stay prepared to have their expectations shattered, as the James Webb Space Telescope will allow them to peer farther into space, and thus into the past, than Hubble, allowing the exploration and discovery of new mysteries.
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