A discovery that has not yet been fully confirmed, but which is already making all astronomers jubilant.
It’s been just over a week since NASA finally regaled us with the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and astronomers still have some spectacular discoveries in store. Today, a team announced the probable discovery of the most distant and oldest galaxy to have been observed!
According to Rohan Naidu, team leader at the prestigious Harvard Center for Astrophysics, this galaxy called GLASS-z13 was indeed born 300 million years after the Big Bang, whose age is estimated at 13.8 billion. years. She is therefore at least 100 million years older than the current defending champion, GN-z11.
“ We have potentially the most distant starlight anyone has ever seen. “, he explains to AFP. But his exact age remains to be determined. It could indeed have formed almost any time during the 300 million year window after the Big Bang, and currently resides about 13 billion light years away.
Works not yet published, but already acclaimed
At the moment, the research paper produced by Naidu and his international team of 25 astronomers has just entered the peer review process. Other astronomers will therefore look into the raw data and the interpretation of the researchers; if they believe that the methodology is sufficiently solid and the results convincing, GLASS-z13 can officially be proud of these records.
Usually, specialists prefer to wait for the end of this process before declaring victory. But in this specific case, the case seems extremely solid. Even Thomas Zurbruchen, the great honcho of scientific research at NASA renowned for his intransigence, is already welcoming this great discovery.
” Astronomical records are already crumbling “, he says in a tweet. “ Yes, I usually wait for the scientific results to pass the peer review stage. But it looks very promising! “, he rejoices.
Astronomy records are crumbing already, and more are shaky … @NASAWebb 🌌
Yes, I tend to only cheer once science results clear peer review. But, this looks very promising! #UnfoldTheUniverse https://t.co/i9fLnlPpYI
— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ) July 20, 2022
Naidu shares the same interpretation. ” The evidence is strong, but there is still work to be done “, he explains. Now, he and his team hope to be able to book observing time with the JWST again.
A taste of the Webb’s exceptional abilities
They will probably have to wait a while, since the machine is obviously very popular with astronomers around the world. But once they have access to it again, they intend to point the right Webb mirrors again at GLASS-z13, whose position is now known with good precision. They will thus be able to conduct much more advanced spectroscopic analyzes to confirm the identity of this galaxy.
They may also be interested in some very surprising properties that they have already demonstrated. For example, according to the preliminary estimates of the researchers, this galaxy would weigh the equivalent of a billion Suns, which is very surprising for a galaxy formed at the dawn of the universe. ” It’s something we don’t really understand Naidu slips, visibly perplexed.
In any case, what is certain is that the JWST will have its work cut out for it. Remember that it is only at the dawn of his great adventure. Given the scientific marvels he has already brought back from his space perch, it is safe to say that new discoveries at least as exceptional will continue to rain down for many years to come.
The pre-publication research article is available here.