Earlier this year, Nasa launched the £8.4 billion James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s spiritual successor, offering an unprecedented glimpse into the universe. Now using this powerful device in orbit, researchers have captured two new images that show what could be among the first galaxies never observed. These images captured objects from more than 13 billion years ago, offering an even wider field of view than Webb’s first Deep Field image, which promised the world when it was first shown last month.
The team of researchers spotted a peculiar object, which they believe formed just 290 million years after the Big Bang.
The object was dubbed the Maisie Galaxy in honor of project leader Steven Finkelstein’s daughter.
The results have not yet been peer reviewed and are currently posted on the arXiv preprint server.
Once confirmed, the Maisie Galaxy would be one of the first ever observed, suggesting that galaxies began forming in the universe much earlier than astronomers thought.
These unprecedented images reveal a host of complex galaxies evolving over time, some shaped like windmills and others resembling “blobby blobby.”
The images, which took around 24 hours to collect, of a patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper, a constellation officially named Ursa Major.
This same section of sky has already been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, as seen in the Extended Groth Strip.
Professor Finkelstein from the University of Texas at Austin and principal investigator of the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey (CEERS) said: “It’s amazing to see a bright spot from Hubble transform into an entire, beautifully formed galaxy in these new James Webb images, and other galaxies are popping up out of nowhere.
The impressive image is actually a composite mosaic of 690 individual images that took around 24 hours to collect using the telescope’s main imager, called the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam).
This new image covers an area of sky about eight times larger than Webb’s first Deep Field image, although it’s not as deep.
The researchers then used some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, like Stampede2 and Frontera, to stitch the images together.
Professor Finkelstein said: “The high performance computing power made it possible to combine a myriad of images and keep the images in memory at the same time for processing, resulting in a single beautiful image.”
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