Tech & Science

Space discovery: Massive galaxies from early universe

Cape Canaveral, Florida –

Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a giant galaxy dating back less than 600 million years from the Big Bang. This suggests that the early universe may have had a stellar fast track that produced these “monsters.”

The new James Webb Space Telescope has discovered even older galaxies dating back to just 300 million years from the beginning of the universe, but what has surprised scientists is the size and maturity of these six apparent giant galaxies. They reported their findings on Wednesday.

Principal Investigator Ivo Labbe and his team at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia expected to find a tiny baby galaxy this close to cosmic dawn.

“Most of the galaxies in this era are still small, and have gradually grown larger over time, but there are some monsters that mature rapidly. It is unclear why this is the case, or how it works. “

Each of the six celestial bodies appears to weigh billions of times more than the Sun. In one of them, the total mass of all stars could be as much as 100 billion times that of our Sun’s, the scientists published their findings in the journal Nature.

Labbe and his team said they initially didn’t believe the results were real. No galaxy could have been as mature as our own Milky Way at such an early age, and it remains to be seen. The object looked so large and bright that some members of the team thought they had made a mistake.

“We were overwhelmed and unbelievable,” Labe said.

Joel Reja of Pennsylvania State University, who participated in the study, calls them “cosmic destroyers.”

“The revelation that massive galaxy formation began very early in the history of the universe upends what many of us thought was established science,” Leja said in a statement. “It turns out to have discovered something so unexpected that it actually poses a problem for science. It puts the big picture of early galaxy formation into question.”

These galaxy observations are among the first data sets from the US$10 billion Webb telescope, which launched just over a year ago. NASA and the European Space Agency’s Webb are considered successors to the Hubble Space Telescope, which marks his 33rd anniversary since launch.

Unlike Hubble, the larger and more powerful Web can peer into dust clouds with infrared vision and discover previously unseen galaxies. Scientists hope to finally see the first stars and galaxies that formed after the universe began 13.8 billion years ago.

The researchers are awaiting formal confirmation by high-sensitivity spectroscopy, cautioning that for now they will refer to these candidates as massive galaxies. Leja said some objects may not be galaxies, but obscured supermassive black holes.

While some may turn out to be smaller, “it’s likely that at least some of them will turn out to be galactic giants,” said Labbe. prize.”

One of Webb’s early lessons, he said, is to “let go of expectations and be prepared to be amazed.”


The Associated Press’ Health Sciences Division is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Scientific and Educational Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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