A Fascinating Look At NASA's Space Telescope's First Month Capturing The Universe
Even though the Webb telescope has only been sending full resolution images back for a little over a month now, it has already allowed researchers to determine that the adolescent phase of the universe was much more complicated than previously thought. An international team known as GLASS, which includes Professor Glazebrook and colleague Colin Jacobs from the James Webb Australian Data Centre at Swinburne University, is utilizing the first images from JWST to unlock new data and mysteries from some of the earliest galaxies.
"We can see fainter galaxies than ever before, we can see more detail than ever before, and now we can see what the human eye would see at these very ancient times," explained Dr. Jacobs.
The GLASS team is not the only one taking a deep dive into the early images of JWST. Researchers all over the world are in a "feeding frenzy" as they all try and uncover as much as possible from the more detailed imagery that Webb is producing.
"People are pouncing on it at once because it's a once-in-a-lifetime snapshot of part of the universe we couldn't see before," remarked Dr. Jacobs.
So far, the earliest galaxy detected from the first image produced by Webb last month of SMACS 0723 is estimated to have appeared about 700 million years after the Big Bang. However, several different teams have identified potential galaxies that are even older. While these new contenders still need to be proven out, they would smash the expectations most had for JWST, as well as challenge theories of the early universe.
One of the spectacular images that have been officially released by NASA shows the Cartwheel Galaxy. This rare ring-shaped galaxy resides some 500 million light-years away in the constellation of Sculptor, and is believed to have gotten its shape by colliding with another galaxy that has since made its exit. As the hit and run galaxy slammed into the Cartwheel galaxy, it produced an effect similar to that of a rock being dropped into a pond. It first pushed the material outward, and then funneling back into the center.
As more and more images are sent back from the Webb telescope, there are bound to be many more discoveries being made. One of the current candidate galaxies is thought to have formed only 180 million years after the Big Bang. Dr. Glazebrook predicts researchers will know in a few months, following more research into the data, as to the validity of many of the claims that are being made thus far. So, stay tuned.
Top Image Credit: NASA/ESA