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Part 2: The oldest galaxy and some big questions!5 min read

July 21, 2022 4 min read


Part 2: The oldest galaxy and some big questions!5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Hello readers. If you find yourself here, you have seen Part 1 of this two-part series on NASA’s latest discoveries from the big, vast universe. It means that you have marvelled at the stunning images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, and are just as eager as all the space buffs out there to learn more!

Worry not, to refresh your memory and to give you another glimpse of the pictures that blew all our minds away, here they are once more:

All pictures sources from NASA

Fascinating, right? And this is just the tip of it — there is so much left to discover and explore.

A very very old galaxy

While experts have given us details what these images mean, there’s still much to analyse.

Most recently, a scientist who analysed the data from James Webb said on July 20 that the telescope may have found a galaxy that existed 13.5 billion years ago! Yes, that number is so huge, it blew our minds too!

This image courtesy of the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, shows a Webb Space Telescope image of the oldest galaxy ever observed, called GLASS-z13. Picture: AFP

Rohan Naidu of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics told news agency AFP that the collection of stars – called GLASS-z13 is a galaxy that apparently dates back to 300 million years after the Big Bang. 

How did the Big Bang happen?

The universe began, scientists believe, with every speck of its energy jammed into a very tiny point. This extremely dense point exploded with unimaginable force, creating matter and propelling it outward to make the billions of galaxies of our vast universe. Astrophysicists dubbed this titanic explosion the Big Bang.

It means about 100 million years earlier than anything previously identified. The previous oldest galaxy, known as GN-Z11, was spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope. 

Naidu said, “We’re potentially looking at the most distant starlight that anyone has ever seen.” 

“We found two very compelling candidates for extremely distant galaxies. If these galaxies are at the distance we think they are, the universe is only a few hundred million years old at that point,” he said while speaking to New Scientist

Notably, the more distant objects are from us, the longer it takes for their light to reach us. So in order to look back into the distant universe is to see into the deep past. 

Though GLASS-z13 existed in the earliest era of the universe, its exact age remains unknown as it could have formed anytime within the first 300 million years. 

It’s understood that the GLASS-z13 was spotted in data from the orbiting observatory’s main infrared imager, called NIRcam. The discovery was, however, not revealed in the first image set published by NASA. 

When translated from infrared into the visible spectrum, the galaxy appears as a blob of red with white in its centre. 

Big questions Webb will try and answer

Being the most-advanced space telescope out there, scientists are hoping the James Webb Telescope can answer some of their most burning questions. Let’s explore some of them:

These are just some of the different questions that we could think of. Can you think of any others that you hope the James Webb Telescope could find the answers to? Let us know in the comments! And remember….

Sources: New Scientist, Mint, Reuters, NASA