NASA via AP
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Astronomers have discovered what appear to be massive galaxies dating back to within 600 million years of the Big Bang, suggesting the universe may have had the first stellar velocity that produced these “monsters.”
While the new James Webb Space Telescope has spotted even larger galaxies to date within just 300 million years of the universe’s inception, it is the size and maturity of these six apparent mega-galaxies that astonish scientists. The findings were reported Wednesday.
Lead researcher Ivo Labbe of Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology and his team are expecting a small galaxy this close to the dawn of the universe — not these whoppers.
“As most galaxies at this age are still small and only growing gradually over time,” he said in an email, “there are few monsters that are rapidly maturing on the track. Why this is so or how this works is unknown. .
Each of the six objects is estimated to be billions of times more massive than our sun. In one of them, the total mass of all its stars may be as much as 100 billion times greater than our sun, according to scientists who published their findings in a journal. nature.
Labbe said he and his team didn’t think the results were real at first – galaxies can’t be as old as our Milky Way so early – and they still need to be confirmed. Things appeared so great and clear that some of the members of the party thought that they had made a mistake.
“We were kind of incredulous,” Labbe said.
Joel Leja of Pennsylvania State University, who participated in the study, calls them “universe breakers.”
“The revelation that massive galaxy formation began early in the history of the universe allows what many of us thought science had defined,” Leja said in a statement. It calls into question the whole picture of the formation of the galaxy”.
These observations of the galaxy were among the first observations made by the $10 billion Webb telescope, launched just over a year ago. NASA and the European Webb Space Agency are considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, coming up on the 33rd anniversary of its launch.
Unlike Hubble, the larger and more powerful Webb can see through clouds of dust with its infrared vision and discover previously unseen galaxies. Scientists hope to finally observe the first stars and galaxies after the creation of the universe 13.8 billion years ago.
The researchers are still waiting for official confirmation through sensitive spectroscopy, but are careful to call these massive galaxies candidates for now. Leja said that a few objects may not be galaxies, but supermassive dark holes.
While some may be smaller, “odds are good at least some of them will turn out to be” galactic giants, Labbe said. “Next year will tell us.”
The first lesson from Webb is to “let go of your expectations and be prepared to be surprised.”
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