Webb Space Telescope’s Latest Discovery Could Completely Upend Our Current Understanding of the Universe

in one new studyAn international team of astrophysicists examining images taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have discovered six massive potential galaxies that could revolutionize our understanding of the Universe.

The candidate galaxies are believed to have formed at the beginning of the Universe around 13 billion years ago, or 500 to 700 million years after the Big Bang.

In this region of early space, astronomers expected to find small, newly forming galaxies. However, images from the Webb Space Telescope suggest that the star systems could contain nearly as many stars as the Milky Way today.

“These objects are much more massive than expected,” called Joel Leja, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, who has modeled the light from these galaxies. “We expected to find only tiny, young baby galaxies at this point, but we have discovered galaxies as mature as our own in what used to be thought to be the beginning of the universe.”

Webb Space Telescope
A mosaic collected by James Webb from a region of space near the Big Dipper, with insets showing the position of six new galaxy candidates from the early Universe. (Image source: NASA, ESA, CSA, I. Labbe (Swinburne University of Technology). Image processing: G. Brammer (Cosmic Dawn Center of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen))

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, Started December 2021is equipped with infrared sensors that can detect the light emitted by the oldest stars and galaxies, allowing scientists to look back approximately 13.5 billion years to the beginning of the known universe.

Using data previously collected by James Webb, Scientist several galaxies identified in the oldest regions of the universe, an area that formed about 350 million years after the Big Bang. These distant star systems were relatively small and consistent with what might be expected based on current cosmological models.

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However, the recent discovery of six massive, mature galaxies in the same general region of the early Universe could turn modern cosmological theory on its head and change what many have long considered mainstream science.

“They are bananas” called Erica Nelson, co-author of the new research and assistant professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “You just don’t expect the early universe to be able to organize itself so quickly. These galaxies shouldn’t have had time to form.”

The latest findings come from Jame Webb Science of the early release of cosmic evolution (CEERS) Survey of a region of space near the Big Dipper first observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in the 1990s.

The galaxy candidates are so unexpected that they conflict with 99% of the cosmological models. Current calculations indicate that 500 to 700 million years after the Big Bang there should not be enough matter to form extensive star systems.

According to researchers, explaining the observed mass of these galaxies requires changing current cosmological models or revising the scientific understanding of how galaxies formed in the early Universe. “Both scenarios require a fundamental change in our understanding of the origin of the universe,” explained Leja.

“We looked into the very early universe for the first time and had no idea what we would find,” said Leja. “It turns out we’ve found something so unexpected that it actually creates problems for science. It challenges the whole picture of early galaxy formation.”

“We’ve informally dubbed these objects ‘Universe Breakers’ – and they’ve lived up to their name so far.”

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Webb Space Telescope
Images of six candidate massive galaxies seen 500 to 800 million years after the Big Bang. One of the sources (bottom left) could contain as many stars as our current Milky Way, but is 30 times more compact. (Image source: NASA, ESA, CSA, I. Labbe (Swinburne University of Technology). Image processing: G. Brammer (Cosmic Dawn Center of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen))

The researchers warn that more data is needed to fully confirm that the galaxy candidates are as large and as old as they appear.

“This is our first look back so far, so it’s important that we keep an open mind about what we’re seeing,” Leja said. “Although the data suggests they are likely galaxiesI think there is a real possibility that some of these objects will turn out to be eclipsed supermassive black holes.”

“Regardless, the amount of mass we have discovered means that the known mass in stars in this period of our Universe is up to 100 times greater than previously thought. Even if we halve the sample, it’s still an amazing change.”

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The objects might eventually turn out not to be galaxies at all. “Another possibility is that these things are different types of strange objects, such as faint quasars, which would be just as interesting,” Nelson said. “If even one of these galaxies is real, it will push the limits of our understanding of cosmology.”

The preliminary observations offer a compelling glimpse of how the James Webb Space Telescope could ultimately rewrite our understanding of the Universe.

Nelson says the rapid pace of discoveries being made with James Webb is comparable to the early days of the Hubble telescope. Launched into low-Earth orbit in 1990, the Hubble telescope quickly painted a much more complex picture of the early Universe than researchers had originally thought.

Operating for just over a year, the James Webb Space Telescope is the largest infrared space telescope designed to capture high-resolution images of objects that are too distant or too faint for Hubble.

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“Even though we learned our lesson from Hubble, we didn’t expect James Webb to see such mature galaxies existing so far back in time,” Nelson said. “I’m so excited.”

The researcher’s findings were recently published in the journal Nature.

Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement officer, investigative reporter and co-founder of The Debrief. His writing typically focuses on defense, national security, the intelligence community, and topics related to psychology. You can follow Tim on Twitter: @LtTimMcMillan. Tim can be reached via email: [email protected] or via encrypted email: [email protected]


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