Discovery Of 6 Massive Galaxies Forces Astronomers To Rethink How Universe Works

A study published in the journal Nature has forced astronomers to rethink how the universe works after the James Webb Space Telescope discovered six massive galaxies.

Discovery Of 6 Massive Galaxies Forces Astronomers To Rethink How Universe Works 1

Astronomers’ understanding of the origin of the universe may need to be revised in light of six huge galaxies that emerged less than half a billion years after the Big Bang. According to researchers from Penn State University, they are significantly bigger than scientists had previously imagined and contain some of the first stars that illuminated the cosmos.

As a result of observations made by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), earlier hypotheses about the evolution of the universe have been completely refuted. Their stellar masses range from 10 to 100 billion times greater than that of the Sun.

“We expected only to find tiny, young, baby galaxies at this point in time, but we’ve discovered galaxies as mature as our own in what was previously understood to be the dawn of the universe,” explains Joel Leja, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, in a university release.

One of the galaxies may contain as many stars as the Milky Way does now, but it is 30 times more compact, according to scientists. The first dataset from NASA’s JWST reveals things from roughly 13 billion years ago that are just as developed.

500–700 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 3% as old as it is now, something occurred. The telescope is equipped with infrared sensing technology that can pick up the light coming from even the oldest stars and galaxies. In essence, it enables researchers to peer back nearly 13.5 billion years, toward the start of the known universe.

Discovery Of 6 Massive Galaxies Forces Astronomers To Rethink How Universe Works 2
Images of six candidate massive galaxies, seen 500-700 million years after the Big Bang. One of the sources (bottom left) could contain as many stars as our present-day Milky Way, according to researchers, but it is 30 times more compact. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, I. Labbe (Swinburne University of Technology).

“This is our first glimpse back this far, so it’s important that we keep an open mind about what we are seeing,” Leja says. “While the data indicates they are likely galaxies, I think there is a real possibility that a few of these objects turn out to be obscured supermassive black holes. Regardless, the amount of mass we discovered means that the known mass in stars at this period of our universe is up to 100 times greater than we had previously thought. Even if we cut the sample in half, this is still an astounding change.”

“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,” the Penn State astronomer continues. “We’ve been informally calling these objects ‘universe breakers’ — and they have been living up to their name so far.”

The study, which appeared in the journal Nature (pdf below), has ramifications for the way that cosmological simulations are now run on computers. It would be necessary to modify models or reconsider the notion that galaxies began as little clouds of stars and dust and grew steadily larger. A major change in how we think about how the cosmos came to be is necessary for either option.

“We looked into the very early universe for the first time and had no idea what we were going to find,” Leja says. “It 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 JWST is the biggest infrared telescope in orbit and was created to see the creation of the universe. Its high resolution enables it to see objects that the Hubble Space Telescope cannot because they are too old, far away, or faint.

A study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society last year said that our galaxy could be evaporating as dead stars try to flee the Milky Way.

“When we got the data, everyone just started diving in and these massive things popped out really fast,” the study author says. “We started doing the modeling and tried to figure out what they were because they were so big and bright. My first thought was we had made a mistake and we would just find it and move on with our lives. But we have yet to find that mistake, despite a lot of trying.”

A spectrum image is expected to give precise distances and identify gases and other constituents to produce a sharper picture, according to scientists.

“A spectrum will immediately tell us whether or not these things are real,” Leja concludes. “It will show us how big they are, how far away they are. What’s funny is we have all these things we hope to learn from James Webb and this was nowhere near the top of the list. We’ve found something we never thought to ask the universe — and it happened way faster than I thought, but here we are.”

Read the study given below:


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2 Responses

  1. Whatever version they are claiming today – it is still the same claim – trust the science!

  2. If you believe that, I’ve got some beachfront property sell you on a planet around Antares.

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