The universe’s initial universe was home to some surprisingly massive galaxies
Observing Galaxies at the Dawn of the Universe. Detection of Stars, Black Holes, and Other Explosive Objects
Leja and his colleagues began analyzing Webb data, along with the telescope’s first high-resolution images, once they were released in July. The galaxies appeared as large points of light, and the team was surprised to see them — so surprised, they thought they made a mistake in interpreting the data.
It has been a bit of a surprise that there are so many of them. It’s challenging ideas about how the universe formed.
The objects are more massive than expected according to the study coauthor, who is assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics. “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.”
The telescope observes the universe in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, and is capable of detecting the faint light from ancient stars and galaxies. The observatory can see back in time to about 13 billion years ago by peering into the distant universe. (Scientists have determined the universe is about 13.7 billion years old.)
“The revelation that massive galaxy formation began extremely early in the history of the universe upends what many of us had thought was settled science,” Leja said in a statement. We found something so unforeseen, it actually creates problems for science. It calls into question the whole picture of galaxy formation.
“This is our first glimpse back this far, so it’s important that we keep an open mind about what we are seeing,” Leja said. While the data indicates they are likely galaxies, I think there is a chance that some of these objects could be obscured by supermassive black holes. The amount of mass we discovered is enough to show that the mass in stars at this period of our universe is up to 100 times greater than had been thought. Even if we cut the sample in half, this is still an astounding change.”
One way to determine why the galaxies grew so quickly is by taking a spectrum image of the galaxies, which involves splitting light into different wavelengths to define various elements, as well as determine the true distance of the galaxies, Leja said. The data from the spectroscopy would give a more detailed look at the galaxies.
Labbe said he and his team didn’t think the results were real at first — that there couldn’t be galaxies as mature as our own Milky Way so early in time — and they still need to be confirmed. The objects appeared so big and bright that some members of the team thought they had made a mistake.
He stated in an email there are a few monsters that fast-track to maturity. It’s not known why this is the case or how this would work.
Observations of Candidate Massive Galaxies with Extra-Solar Weights: a Tale of Two Exotic Stars
Each object looks to be billions of times bigger than the sun. In one of them, the total weight of all its stars may be as much as 100 billion times greater than our sun, according to the scientists, who published their findings in the journal Nature.
The researchers still are awaiting official confirmation through sensitive spectroscopy, careful to call these candidate massive galaxies for now. Leja said that it is possible that there are objects that are obscured by black holes.
While some may prove to be smaller, “odds are good at least some of them will turn out to be” galactic giants, Labbe said. The next year will tell us.