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The first image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope shows some of the oldest stars and galaxies in the universe, including one that looks like a spark, according to new research.
Webb’s stunning first view was released by President Joe Biden on July 11 and is “the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date,” according to NASA.
Webb’s first image shows SMACS 0723, where a massive group of galaxies acts as a magnifying glass for the objects behind it.
It’s called gravitational lensing, and it produced Webb’s first deep-field view of incredibly old and faint galaxies. Deep field observations are long observations of regions of the sky that may reveal faint objects.
Some of these distant galaxies and star clusters have never been seen before. The galaxy cluster is shown as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago.
Now, researchers have performed Webb’s first deep field analysis and observed the most distant globular clusters ever seen. These clusters are dense groups of millions of stars, some of which may be the first and oldest in the universe. A study detailing the findings was published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“JWST was built to find the first stars and the first galaxies and to help understand the origins of the universe’s complexity, such as the chemical elements and building blocks of life,” said Lamiya Mowla, study co-author and Dunlap. member of the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, in a statement.
“This discovery of Webb’s First Deep Field is already providing a detailed look at the early stages of star formation, confirming JWST’s enormous power.”
A feature of interest in the deep field has been nicknamed the Sparkler Galaxy because it appears to be surrounded by bright red and yellow dots. The galaxy is nine billion light years away.
The flares could be young clusters, where stars were actively forming just three billion years after the Big Bang, or they could be old globular clusters of stars early in the galaxy’s formation.
The team analyzed 12 flares and determined that five of them are among the oldest globular clusters ever discovered.
“Seeing the first images from JWST and finding old globular clusters around distant galaxies was an incredible moment that was not possible with previous Hubble Space Telescope images,” said Kartheik G. Iyer, a Dunlap and co-author of the study. Fellow of the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, in a statement.
“We could observe the glow at different wavelengths, model it and better understand their physical properties, such as how old they are and how many stars they contain. We hope that knowing that globular clusters can be observed at great distances with JWST will encourage more science and the search for similar objects.” .
Webb’s sensitivity and resolution are shedding light on previously unseen aspects of the universe, such as the clusters surrounding the Sparkler galaxy.
“These newly identified clusters formed close to the time when star formation was first possible,” Mowla said. “We are observing the Sparkler as it was nine billion years ago, when the universe was only four and a half billion years old, looking at something that happened a long time ago. Think about guessing a person’s age based on their appearance. It’s easy to tell the difference between a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old, but it’s hard to tell the difference between a 50-year-old and a 55-year-old.”