What Hubble Saw as Dots, The James Webb Telescope Sees as Galaxies

The James Webb Space Telescope perceives objects that the Hubble Space Telescope only perceives as spots or pinpoints of light. Whole galaxies from the past are perceived.

Recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope, which was created to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope, show one of the furthest galaxies ever observed. Compared to Webb's first deep-field shot on July 12, these images have a much wider field of view and contain objects older than 13 billion years.

A mosaic of 690 individual frames created by the NIRCam near-infrared camera on the James Webb Space Telescope. The image covers an area that is approximately eight times larger than Webb’s first deep-field picture released on July 12. It is one of the first images obtained by the CEERS collaboration from an area of the sky near the tail of the Big Dipper.

As part of CEERS (which stands for Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey and is a survey that has the first scientific results on cosmic evolution), scientists studied how the first galaxies formed during the reionization period of the universe when it was less than 5% of its current age.

The CEERS team identified one particularly interesting object in the first week of data analysis: the galaxy Maisie, named after the daughter of Steven Finkelstein, the project director. CAB reports in a statement that this galaxy existed only 300 million years after the Big Bang.

Data was collected from a patch of sky near the tail of the Big Dipper, which took about 24 hours. Hubble previously observed this region of the sky, known as the Extended Groth Fringe.

Finkelstein, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin and Principal Investigator for CEERS, says, “It’s amazing to see what Hubble saw as a pinpoint of light becoming a galaxy.

Besides revealing distant galaxies, CEERS images also reveal many beautiful and interesting objects, illustrating the complexity of galaxy evolution throughout universe history.

This is a photograph taken with MIRI, the Mid-Infrared Instrument. A region of the sky is visible close to the tail of the Big Dipper. The image revealed how galaxies in dense interstellar gas and dust form new stars, which can be difficult to study with optical telescopes such as Hubble. It’s one of the first images produced by the CEERS collaboration. Image Credit: NASA; STScI; CEERS; TACC; S. Finkelstein; G. Yang; C. Papovich; Z. Leva.

Webb, MIRI, and what it can show about the world

MIRI is an instrument and an important part of the Webb Space Telescope. It works in the mid-infrared range and was developed by a European consortium. As compared to previous mid-infrared telescopes, it operates at a much higher spatial resolution.

MIRI has a smaller field of view than NIRcam, but it detects longer wavelengths. This means astrophysicists can see cosmic dust from distant galaxies and black holes and the light of the oldest stars.

In our minds, we always assume that we are nearing the Big Bang, which means that galaxies are still very young, and it should be possible to detect the first one by now. Nevertheless, JWST is revealing large galaxies that were already quite evolved at 5% of the universe’s current age. Throughout the universe’s existence, galaxies have been formed extremely efficiently and complex chemical elements and compounds that must have an effect on the appearance of life.

In total, CEERS involves more than 60 hours of telescope time, almost half of which has already been completed. With the completion of the program in December, hundreds of distant galaxies will be spectroscopically measured along with a great deal more imaging data.

The James Webb Telescope continues to redefine how we explore the universe and explore its wonders. The brand-new space telescope has already contributed in a great deal to our understanding of the universe, the formation of galaxies, and their characteristics.

This article’s featured image is a comparison of a Hubble Space Telescope image and a simulated James Webb Space Telescope image. The new telescope will peer deeper into the most ancient universe. (Image credit: ESA/NASA/STSCI)

Reference(s): CAB

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