September 28, 2022


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NASA’s Webb Space Telescope reveals a bright universe in its largest image yet

For the James Webb Space Telescope, the sights were one after another. A little over a month since this pioneering instrument left humanity in awe after releasing its first intergalactic views, nebula images and stellar artifacts, it’s given us its biggest picture yet.

Last week, international scholars joined The science of the early launch of cosmic evolution The survey, or CEERS, provided a huge, full-color mosaic generated from data collected by JWST. It’s a record-breaking mural known as Epoch 1, covering a small patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper constellation.

Raster image showing a red dot against a black space

This red pixelated dot could be a galaxy that existed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang – also known as the Macy’s Galaxy. The scale bar is 1 kiloparsec (about 3,260 light years).

Finkelstein et al. (2022) / NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI

previously, CEERS . cooperation It was Peeks revealed in Epoch 1Many have sent astronomers down the rabbit hole of JWST and published papers on the galactic goodies inside. For example, CEERS Project Leader Stephen Finkelstein Announced a paper submission last month About “Very Persuasive” filter for galaxy It would have existed only 290 million years after the Big Bang. It’s called the Macy’s Galaxy, After his daughter, because it was discovered on her birthday.

But now, says CEERS, phase one is officially complete.

For the context of how exactly big This final image is, the team shows, covering an area about eight times the area of ​​the first deep field in JWST, released on July 11, which was already curiously huge. The final mosaic consists of 690 individual frames captured with the JWST near-infrared camera, and will be built from observations scheduled for December.

“Epoch 1 covers less than half of our total survey area in the sky, and the images have already led to new discoveries and an unexpected, but not unwelcome, abundance of never-before-seen galaxies,” the CEERS team said in a press release. .

You can download medium or high resolution version From the picture here — but if you’re shooting for the latter, just as I did, CEERS recommends using a computer or laptop. Due to how large this file is, your mobile phone may start working.

Well, now that you’ve got the picture right, let’s discuss some of the highlights. There are six primary points of interest, according to the CEERS team. This is a diagram.

Here is the full outline of a CEERS Epoch 1 image. At the bottom are close-up shots of some of the highlights in the mosaic.

NASA/STScI/CEERS/TACC/S. Finkelstein/M. Bagley / Z. Levi

First, in (1), the spiral galaxy is towards the upper left, which exudes a redshift of z = 0.16.

Redshift is basically astronomers’ way of measuring an object’s distance, and therefore the past tense. It was named for the fact that, when a luminous object slips away from our view, the light emitted becomes redder…and redder, eventually Falling into the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum and becoming invisible to the human eye. Fear not, however, because JWST can collect this “invisible” light as well, which is also why it promises to reveal an “unfiltered universe”, a phrase you may have seen online.

In short, a greater redshift means that something is further away from Earth.

Then, in (2), towards the center of the image is a bright galaxy with a redshift of z = 1.05. This spot also contains many smaller galaxies that appear in an arclike format when viewed with JWST. On August 15, Rebecca Larson, a doctoral student in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the CEERS Collaboration, tweeted her adorable name for this scene.

“TBT to one late night when this galaxy decided…looked like Pacman and proceeded to overlay the little yellow dude and laughed so hard until we all decided it was time to go home,” Larson Books.

To the right of this muzzle, (3) shows an interacting system of galaxies at z = 1.4. Finkelstein called this person “Space Kraken,” Larson tweeted. It strangely resembles a fearsome ancient sea monster.

Move over one, to (4), and you’ll notice a pair of spiral galaxies – in the enlarged version at the bottom of the diagram, a white arrow indicates a supernova in this section of sky that was also discovered by JWST. Here the redshift is z = 0.7. CEERS published a paper last month About these phenomena in particular, because a comparison of the JWST version of the duo with the Hubble Space Telescope may have provided a lot of new information.

Below, (5) is shown another special spiral galaxy at z = 0.7, and finally (6) is a galaxy az = 0.63 with a tidal tail and clustering of red galaxies in the background that lies at z = 1.85. Larson tweeted about this messy scene: “I tried to call this feature a ‘hot mess in space’, but the reporters said ‘no’.”

And of course, CEERS also highlights the Maisie Galaxy in a close-up infographic below. If Finkelstein and colleagues are correct about this point located 290 million light-years after the Big Bang, it has a staggering redshift of z = 14. In addition, It basically proves that galaxies started forming much earlier in the universe than astronomers once thought.

The dark background of space shows different angles of the Maisie galaxy.  The nearest copy of the image is in the lower left, depicting a reddish spot of light.

Here is an image showing the galaxy known as the Maisie Galaxy.

NASA/STScI/CEERS/TACC/S. Finkelstein/M. Bagley / Z. Levi

However, due to the abundance of very distant candidate galaxies that have been observed since the JWST run, Many scientists warn that there may be false hope. A research paper published earlier this month in The Astrophysical Journal by CEERS collaborators, for example, emphasizes the potential for error when Check out these high redshift worlds. Essentially irrelevant cosmic phenomena could be data-light explosions, thus polluting the results.

However, the new age of astronomy in which we find ourselves is very exciting.

“I hope you are as inspired by this telescope and data as I was excited. I am so lucky to share it with you and hope you find your new favorite galaxies in it too!” Larson tweeted in the conclusion to a bright topic on the CEERS map.

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