The James Webb Space Telescope made changes in its first year

The first images of M16 from Hubble Space Telescope (HST): the sparkler, the Pillars of Creation and the hearts of galaxies

The results of star formation and evolution can be seen in regions that are closer to the universe. “Compared to what we can see with Hubble, the amount of details that you see in the Universe, it’s completely mind-blowing,” says Lamiya Mowla, an astronomer at the University of Toronto in Canada. Thanks to telescope’s keen vision, she and her colleagues were able to spot bright ‘sparkles’ around a galaxy that they dubbed the Sparkler; the sparkles turned out to be some of the oldest star clusters ever discovered. There are details such as the hearts of galaxies where black holes are found.

The first data set from the $10 billion telescope was launched over a year ago. Thirty-three years after it was launched, the European Space Agency’s Hubble Space Telescope is believed to be the successor to the NASA’s Webb telescope.

One of the biggest legacies of the public is the images of space captured by the Pillars of Creation. The excitement after the first images of the telescope were revealed in July was followed by other new views of famous landmarks, like the Pillars.

“The nebula, M16, is located right in the plane of the Milky Way; there are just so many stars!” Pontoppidan wrote. “This image was taken in exactly the same way as the cosmic cliffs, and covers an area the same size on the sky.”

The red spots at the edge of the pillars are caused by stars that shoot out jets of exhaust fumes that create a glow around them.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s First Results and Their To-do List to ‘It’s Lucky to Be Alive

The telescope had to contend with a long list of technical difficulties, cost overruns, delays and threats from Congress. Critics questioned its large size, as it boasted six times more light collecting area than the Hubble.

The astronomer at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, was showing off some of the first results from the James Webb Space Telescope. It was not the last time astronomers started chattering in excitement this week as they gazed at the telescope’s initial discoveries, at a symposium held at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland.

It’s important to understand what theorist know about the universe in order to see how the detection of very early, bright galaxies is surprising.

“This is amazing — we are seeing such luminous galaxies at early times,” Garth Illingworth, an author of one of the new reports who is an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said at a 17 November press briefing.

But it works — and spectacularly so. A scientist at a Max Planck Institute for Astronomy says she is lucky to be alive.

A host of other compounds, including water, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide, were found by theJWST in the atmosphere of WASP39b, it was the first time that carbon dioxide was detected in an exoplanet. That not only means that scientists can see the composition of the planet’s atmosphere, but they can also see how the atmosphere is interacting with light from the planet’s host star, as sulfur dioxide is created by chemical reactions with light.

López-Morales chairs a committee that represents astronomers who use JWST, and their to-do list is long. It includes surveying scientists about whether all of the telescope’s data should be freely available as soon as it is collected — a move that many say would disadvantage early-career scientists and those at smaller institutions who do not have the resources to pounce on and analyse JWST data right away. Telescope operators are also working on a way to get its data to flow more efficiently to Earth through communication dishes, and to fly it in a physical orientation that reduces the risk of micro-meteoroids smashing into and damaging its primary mirror.

Applications are now open for astronomers to pitch their ideas for observations during JWST’s second year of operations, which starts in July. The next round could result in more ambitious or creative proposals to use the telescope now that astronomers know what it is capable of, Pontoppidan says.

There are still problems, even after all the good news. Lpez-Morales says there is a lack of funding to support the scientists working on the data. “We can do the science, we have the skills, we are developing the tools, we are going to make groundbreaking discoveries but on a very thin budget,” she says. It’s not ideal right now.

But overall the telescope is opening up completely new realms of astronomy, says Rowe-Gurney: “It’s the thing that’s going to answer all the questions that my PhD was trying to find.”

As Christmas approached last year, astronomers and space fans around the globe gathered to watch the much-anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope was overbudget and behind schedule, and it was named after a former NASA administrator accused of homophobia.

The Discovery of the Observed Mass in Early Galaxies at the Joint Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (JWST)

These early galaxies are identified using surveys and deep field images which use astronomy to look at large patches of the sky which may look empty first glance. These areas don’t have bright objects like solar system planets and are located away from the center of our galaxy, allowing astronomers to look out into the depths of space to spot these extremely far-off objects.

JWST is trying to learn more about the lifecycle of stars, which is currently understood in broad strokes. They know clouds of dust and gas form knots that gather more material to them and collapse to form protostars, for example, but exactly how that happens needs more research. The regions where stars form and why they form in groups are being learned by them.

The telescope can detect faint light from ancient stars and the universe is invisible to the human eye. The observatory can look back in time up to about 13 billion years ago, by peering into the distant universe. (Scientists have determined the universe is about 13.7 billion years old.)

“We looked into the very early universe for the first time and had no idea what we were going to find,” Leja said. “It turns out we found something so unexpected it actually creates problems for science. It calls the whole picture of early galaxy formation into question.”

We need to keep an open mind, because this is our first glimpse back this far. “While the data indicates they are likely galaxies, I think there is a real possibility that a few of these objects turn out to be obscured supermassive black holes. Regardless, the amount of mass we discovered means that the known mass in stars at this period of our universe is up to 100 times greater than we had previously thought. Even if we cut the sample in half, this is still an astounding change.”

Leja said it was possible to determine why the galaxies grew so quickly by taking a spectrum image, which involves splitting light into different wavelengths to determine various elements. There would be more details provided by the data on the galaxies and their impressive size.

According to Labbe, he and his team didn’t believe the results were real at first, and they still need to be confirmed. The objects appeared so big that some of the team thought they had made a mistake.

“While most galaxies in this era are still small and only gradually growing larger over time,” he said in an email, “there are a few monsters that fast-track to maturity. It is not known why this would work or how it would work.

Massive galaxies whose stars look like billions of times larger than our sun, as predicted by the latest installed scientific journal Nature

Each of the six objects looks to weigh billions of times more than our 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 are still waiting for the official confirmation, so they should be called massive galaxies now. Leja said that there’s a chance that some of the objects might be 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 a lot.

The story was originally published by the Simons Foundation, which has a purpose of enhancing public understanding of science by covering research and trends in physical and life sciences.

What did galaxies do before the big bang went awry and what happened in the cosmic dark ages? A tale of two things, one thing at a time

How could stars form in a cloud of gas so fast after the big bang? How could they hastily weave themselves into such huge gravitationally bound structures? Finding big, bright early galaxies feels like finding a rabbit in the middle of the sea. “There are no big things at early times. It takes a while to get to big things,” said Mike Boylan-Kolchin, a theoretical physicist at the University of Texas, Austin.

After the Big Bang, the infant universe began cooling off. Within a few million years, the roiling plasma that filled space settled down, and electrons, protons, and neutrons combined into atoms, mostly neutral hydrogen. Things were quiet and dark for a period of uncertain duration known as the cosmic dark ages. Then something happened.

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