“Beyond what is possible” – Webb Space Telescope discovers mysterious ancient galaxies

Our understanding of how galaxies form and the nature of dark matter could be completely upended by new observations of even larger star clusters of galaxies. milky way From more than 11 billion years ago, which should not have existed.

Paper published in nature Details results using new data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The results show that a massive galaxy in the early universe – observed 11.5 billion years ago (cosmological redshift of 3.2) – has a very ancient population of stars that formed much earlier – 1.5 billion years ago (redshift of About 11). This observation turns current modeling on its head, since not enough dark matter is accumulating in sufficient concentrations to form.

Swinburne University of Technology professor Karl Glazebrook led the study and the international team that used the James Webb Space Telescope to make spectroscopic observations of this massive, quiet galaxy.

“We had been chasing this particular galaxy for seven years and spent hours observing it with the two largest telescopes on Earth to find out its age. But it was so red and so faint, we couldn't measure it. Eventually, we had to get off Earth and use the James Webb Space Telescope to confirm Of his nature.”

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the most powerful infrared scientific observatory ever sent into space. From an orbit about a million miles from Earth, Webb studies some of the most distant objects in the universe. Credit: NASA

Galaxy formation is a fundamental model supported by modern astrophysics that predicts a strong decline in the number of massive galaxies in early cosmic epochs. Extremely massive quiescent galaxies have now been observed between one and two billion years after the universe emerged the great explosion Which challenges previous theoretical models.

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Distinguished Professor Glazebrook has worked with leading researchers around the world, including Dr Themiya Nanayakkara, Dr Lalitwadi Kawinwanichakij, Dr Colin Jacobs, Dr Harry Chittenden, Associate Professor Glenn G Kacprzak and Associate Professor Ivo Lappé from the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. .

“This has been very much a team effort, from the infrared sky surveys we began in 2010 that led to the identification of this galaxy as unusual, to our long hours at Keck and Very large telescope We tried, but failed, to confirm this, until last year when we put in a massive effort to figure out how to process the James Webb Space Telescope data and analyze this spectrum.

“We are now going beyond what has been possible to confirm the oldest peaceful mega-monsters existing deep in the universe,” says Dr. Themiya Nanayakkara, who led the spectroscopic analysis of the James Webb Space Telescope data.

“This pushes the boundaries of our current understanding of how galaxies form and evolve. The key question now is how they formed so quickly so early in the universe, and what mysterious mechanisms lead to them preventing them from suddenly forming stars when the rest of the universe does.”

Associate Professor Claudia Lagos from the University of Western Australia International Center for Radio Astronomy Research Node (Repeat) was crucial in developing theoretical modeling of the evolution of dark matter concentrations for the study.

“Galaxy formation is largely determined by how dark matter is concentrated,” she says. “The presence of these extremely massive galaxies so early in the universe poses major challenges to our standard model of cosmology. This is because we do not believe that the massive dark matter structures hosting these massive galaxies would not have had time to form yet. More observations are needed to understand How common these galaxies are and to help us understand how massive these galaxies really are.

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Professor Glazebrook hopes this will be a new breakthrough in our understanding of dark matter physics.

“The James Webb Space Telescope has found increasing evidence of early massive galaxy formation. This result sets a new record for this phenomenon. Although it is very striking, it is just one object. But we hope to find many more, and if we do “It will corrupt our ideas about galaxy formation.”

Reference: “A massive galaxy that formed its stars at z ~ 11” by Karl Glazebrook, Thymia Nanayakkara, Corentin Schreiber, Claudia Lagos, Lalitwadi Kawinwanichakij, Colin Jacobs, Harry Chittenden, Gabriel Brammer, Glenn G. Kaprzak, Ivo Labpi, Danilo Marchesini, Z. Simmel-Marsan, Pascal A. Oish, Casey Papovich, Rhea-Sylvia Remus, Kim-VH. Tran, James Esdell and Angel Chandro-Gomez, February 14, 2024, nature.
doi: 10.1038/s41586-024-07191-9

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