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Science & Technology

The James Webb Telescope Finds Six Ancient Galaxies – Lesson

The galaxies are more than 13.5 billion years old.

The James Webb Space Telescope (also known as JWST or Webb) is the largest in the world. Launched on Christmas Day in 2021, Webb has provided astronomers with valuable information throughout its short time in orbit. The most recent discovery revealed six ancient galaxies scientists never knew existed. In fact, the immense size and old age of the galaxies have NASA wondering how they can exist at all. Let’s explore the telescope’s findings.

Ancient Galaxies and the Beginning of the Universe

GettyImages-620501012 James Webb Telescope

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

JSWT’s infrared technology detects even the most minor bits of light, allowing astronomers to see much farther than others, which is effectively looking backwards in time due to the vast distances; the light we see today from a star might have been emitted ages ago! The six massive, ancient galaxies detected by Webb shock experts because they were not expecting to see such vastly large and developed spaces.

Joel Leja, an assistant astronomy and astrophysics professor at Penn State University, stated: “We expected only to find tiny, young, baby galaxies at this point in time, but we’ve discovered galaxies as mature as our own in what was previously understood to be the dawn of the universe.”

Interestingly, the six areas seem to be as old as the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way. They are forcing astronomers to question how the universe began in the first place.

Leja is skeptical that some of the “galaxies may turn out to be supermassive black holes. Further examinations will reveal what is out there and hopefully answer questions like, “Do other humans exist?” or “Does this erase previous theories about the beginning of the universe?” Leja has advised those examining the new data to keep an open mind.

The JWST’s Other Interesting Finds

Since its launch in December of 2021, Webb has proved to be a remarkable piece of equipment, allowing scientists to learn more about space and the universe. Here are a couple of notable revelations.

Webb captured a photo of The Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula. This image is not the only of its kind, as The Hubble Space Telescope was the first to capture the beautiful, dark, smoky pillars. However, the JWST’s photo was much more detailed and magnificent. Astronomers learned that within the smoky pillars of dust, there were red dots of light that were found to be stars being born.

Defying what scientists initially thought about the Southern Ring Nebula, Webb’s photo revealed exciting information about the seemingly unexciting image. Experts believed the nebula to be a dying star, also called a white dwarf. As it dies, the outer layer begins to separate from the star and create a bright light. The original photo revealed a living star beneath the layers, but Webb’s image showed scientists even more. Webb uncovered a third, never-before-seen star, that is believed to be the source of gas behind the dying nebula star. The images captured by the JWST provide scientists with more data than any telescope before. It will be interesting to see what more we can learn about the universe.