Big look at the early universe – ScienceDaily

Big look at the early universe – ScienceDaily

New images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveal what may be among the earliest galaxies ever observed. The images include objects from more than 13 billion years ago, and one offers a much broader field of view than Webb’s first deep-field image, released July 12. The images are some of the first from a large collaboration of astronomers and other academic researchers working with NASA and global partners to gain new insights into the Universe.

The images come from the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey (CEERS), led by a scientist from the University of Texas at Austin. Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an associate professor in the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Physics and Astronomy, is one of 18 co-researchers from 12 institutions along with more than 100 collaborators from the US and nine other countries. CEERS researchers are studying how some of the earliest galaxies formed when the Universe was less than 5 percent of its current age, during a period known as reionization, and how galaxies evolved between then and now.

The team has identified a particularly exciting object that they estimate is being observed just 290 million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers refer to this as the z~14 redshift.

The result has been published on the preprint server arXiv and is awaiting publication in a peer-reviewed journal. If the finding is confirmed, it would be one of the earliest galaxies ever observed, and its presence would suggest that galaxy formation began much earlier than many astronomers previously thought.

The unprecedentedly sharp images reveal a spate of complex galaxies evolving over time — some elegantly full-grown pinwheels, others clumpy infants, still others razor-thin swirls of do-si-doing neighbors. The images, which took about 24 hours to collect, are from a patch of sky near the hilt of the Big Dipper, a constellation officially named Ursa Major. The same area of ​​the sky was previously observed by the Hubble Space Telescope as seen in the Extended Groth Strip.

“These images are exciting because the sheer number of these really high redshift galaxy candidates is greater than we anticipated,” Kartaltepe said. “We knew we would find some, but I don’t think anyone thought we would find as many as we did. That means either the universe works a bit differently than we thought, or there are many other contaminating sources and those candidates will turn out to be something else. The reality is probably a mix of both.”

Kartaltepe has several leading surveying roles, with a focus on morphology – measuring the shapes and sizes of galaxies and studying the evolution of their structures – and setting up and analyzing spectroscopic observations of distant galaxies with the NIRSpec instrument. Three of her Astrophysical Sciences and Technologies Ph.D. Students – Isabella Cox, Caitlin Rose and Brittany Vanderhoof – participated in the survey and worked with the data.

The entire CEERS program includes more than 60 hours of telescope time. Much more imagery will be collected in December along with spectroscopic measurements of hundreds of distant galaxies.

Kartaltepe is also the principal investigator of COSMOS-Web, the largest general observer program selected for the first year of the JWST. Over the course of 218 hours of observations, COSMOS-Web will conduct an ambitious survey of half a million galaxies using high-resolution multiband near-infrared imaging and an unprecedented 32,000 mid-infrared galaxies. JWST is expected to start collecting the first data for COSMOS-Web in December.

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Materials provided by Rochester Institute of Technology. Originally written by Luke Auburn. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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