In just one week of work, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope broke the record for the oldest galaxy ever observed

  • The James Webb Space Telescope has broken the record for the oldest galaxy ever observed by nearly 100 million years.
  • The light from the galaxy, known as GLASS-z13, is 13.5 billion years old, dating to the youth of the universe.
  • Webb’s instruments could help astronomers see galaxies even older and more distant than this one.

The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s new infrared juggernaut, scanned the vast expanse and found a 13.5 billion-year-old galaxy, which researchers say is the oldest galaxy ever detected. Scientific operations of the mighty telescope began last week.

The swirling collection of stars, gas and dust bound by gravity dates back 300 million years after the Big Bang. This beats the previous record for the most distant and oldest galaxy ever detected by 100 million years, a record that was held by a galaxy known as GN-Z1. When GN-Z1 was spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2016, light from the galaxy had taken 13.4 billion years to reach Hubble.

Researchers from the Harvard and Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics shared their findings on the new record-holding galaxy, called GLASS-z13, in a duo of preprints released Wednesday. Scientists have also identified another galaxy that is around the same age, called GLASS-z11, which also broke previous records.

“We found two very compelling candidates for extremely distant galaxies,” Rohan Naidu, one of the researchers who detected GLASS-z13 in the Webb data, told New Scientist. “If these galaxies are the distance we think they are, the universe is only a few hundred million years old at that point.”

The researchers told New Scientist that the two galaxies are also relatively small compared to our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which is 100,000 light-years across. GLASS-z13 is about 1,600 light-years across, while GLASS z-11 is 2,300 light-years across.

The Red Spot is the oldest galaxy ever observed.

The Red Spot, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, is the oldest galaxy ever observed.

Naidu et al, P. Oesch, T. Treu, GLASS-JWST, NASA/CSA/ESA/STScI

“With the advent of JWST, we now have an unprecedented view of the universe through the extremely sensitive NIRCam instrument,” the researchers explained in the preprint.

It’s still early days for discoveries from the mighty observatory, which launched on Christmas Day in 2021 and began scientific operations last week.

NASA says Webb is able to peer deeper and discover galaxies as early as the first hundred million years after the Big Bang, helping astronomers better understand the evolution of galaxies throughout the Age of Earth. ‘universe.

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