The James Webb Space Telescope has found two of the oldest and most distant galaxies ever seen

of NASA The James Webb Space Telescope It finds bright, early galaxies that have been hidden until now, including one that may have formed just 350 m years after the Big Bang.

Astronomers said Thursday that if the results are confirmed, this newly discovered star mass would beat the record holder for the most distant galaxy ever detected by the Hubble Space Telescope — a 400-million-year-old creation of the universe.

The Webb telescope, launched last December as Hubble’s successor, shows that stars may have formed earlier than previously thought – perhaps within a few million years of the big bang.

Side-by-side images of distant galaxies appearing as elliptical reddish blurs against the blackness of space
A close-up view of two of the newly discovered galaxies. Photo: ESA, NASA, CSA, STScI/AFP/Getty Images

These were Webb’s latest discoveries It is detailed in the Astrophysical Journal Letters by an international team led by Rohan Naidu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The article details two exceptionally bright galaxies, one thought to have formed 350m years after the original big bang and the other 450m years after.

Naidu said more infrared observations by Webb would be needed before a new record holder could be claimed.

Although some researchers have reported the discovery of galaxies closer to the formation of the universe 13.8 billion years ago, these candidates have not yet been confirmed. NASA Press Conference. Some of them may be later galaxies that mimic earlier ones, they noted.

“It’s a very dynamic time,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz, co-author of the paper published Thursday. “There are many early announcements of earlier galaxies, and we’re still trying as a community to sort out which ones might be real.”

Tommaso Treu of the University of California, Los Angeles, principal scientist of Webb’s early launch science program, said the evidence so far is “as strong as it gets” for a galaxy believed to have formed 350m after the big bang.

If the findings are confirmed and there are even earlier galaxies, Raidu and his team wrote that Webb would be “very successful in pushing the cosmic frontier to the brink of the big bang.”

Two star fields with locator boxes showing the galaxies, in the middle magnified images of the galaxies themselves
A distribution image from the Webb Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera showing distant galaxies in the outer regions of the giant galaxy cluster Abell 2744. Photo: ESA, NASA, CSA, STScI/AFP/Getty Images

“When and how the first galaxies formed remains one of the most intriguing questions,” the researchers wrote.

Jane Rigby, a NASA project scientist with Webb, noted that these galaxies were “hidden at the limits of what Hubble could do.”

“They were waiting for us there,” he said. “So it’s a pleasant surprise that there are so many of these galaxies to study.”

The $10 billion observatory, the largest and most powerful telescope ever sent into space, orbits the sun 1m miles (1.6m km) from Earth. Full science operations began in the summer, and NASA has released a series of publications since then dazzling moments of the universe.

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