April 21, 2024

“We have discovered the impossible”

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The James Webb Telescope turns cosmology on its head: massive galaxies in the early universe cannot be explained using current models.

State College – The galaxies that formed in the universe shortly after the Big Bang were supposed to be small. At least that's what astrophysicists expect. But now new recordings are emerging James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Space organizations NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency are working to turn this understanding of the universe on its head. A research team has discovered six massive galaxies in the early universe in images.

The research group was surprised by their discovery, with Joel Lyga of Pennsylvania State University in State College explaining in a statement: “These objects are much more massive than expected.” Lija is part of the research team that analyzed the image of the galaxies. The specialized work was for this In the specialized magazine nature published. “We expected to find only young, young galaxies at this point, but we discovered mature galaxies like our own in a region that was once thought to be the dawn of the universe,” astrophysicist Leija says in one article. notice.

Six massive galaxies that existed 500 to 700 million years after the Big Bang may upend common cosmological models. © NASA, ESA, CSA, I. Labbe (Swinburne University of Technology). Image processing: J. Brammer (Cosmic Dawn Center of the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen)

The James Webb Space Telescope looks almost at the Big Bang

The international research team led by Liga discovered galaxies between 500 and 700 million years after the Big Bang – at cosmic dimensions, almost immediately after the Big Bang. The James Webb Space Telescope uses infrared instruments to enable researchers to detect light emanating from the oldest stars and galaxies. This allows researchers to look roughly 13.5 billion years into the past, shortly before the Big Bang, which, according to current models, occurred about 13.8 billion years ago.

The research team isn't quite sure yet that they've actually discovered massive ancient galaxies, because the galaxies can only be seen as tiny red dots in images from the James Webb Space Telescope. “This is our first look back so far, so it's important that we stay open to what we see,” Leija said. While the data suggests they are likely galaxies, the researcher also believes it is possible that some of these objects could turn out to be hidden supermassive black holes.

The chameleon I am
The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope shows the central region of the dark molecular cloud Chameleon I, located 630 light-years away. ©-/NASA/ESA/CSA/M. Zamani (ESA/Web)/M.K. McClure (Leiden Observatory)/F. Sun (Steward Observatory)/Z. Smith (Open University)/Ice Age ERS Team/DPA

Giant galaxies contradict cosmological models

Regardless, the amount of mass we have discovered means that the known mass of stars at this point in our universe is up to 100 times greater than we previously thought. “Even if we halve the sample, there is still a striking change,” Leija explains. The astrophysicist confirms that his research group's discovery “raises questions about what many of us thought was scientifically proven.” “We informally referred to these things as ‘universe crushers’ – and so far they have lived up to their name.”

According to the research group, the galaxies are so massive that they do not fit 99% of all cosmological models. To explain the large mass, one must either rewrite cosmological models or revise the scientific understanding of galaxy formation in the early universe. Until now, cosmology has assumed that galaxies start out as small clouds of stars and dust and gradually grow larger.

A very deep look into the early universe reveals amazing things

“We looked at the very early universe for the first time and had no idea what we would find,” says Leija. “It turns out we found something so completely unexpected that it poses a problem for science.” His colleague Ivo Lappé, the study's lead author, recalls working with the recordings: “I ran the analysis software and she spit out two numbers: the distance is 13.1 billion light-years, the mass is 100 billion stars, and I almost spit out my coffee. We've just discovered the impossible. It's impossible to be in time.” Early, impossibly massive galaxies.

One way to tell if these are very old galaxies is to record the spectra of individual objects. This would allow researchers to determine actual distances as well as what matter galaxies are made of. Using this data, scientists can also determine how massive galaxies actually are. “The spectrum will tell us immediately whether these things are real or not,” Leija explains. (unpaid bill)