Castiel Haripersad ’24
Since the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on Christmas Day, humanity has learnt new and exciting information about our Universe. The JWST is fueling discussion among experts and enthusiasts about the formation of stars, galaxies, planets, and the true nature of the observable universe.
After its initial calibration, the JWST started to scan its surroundings. Within a few days of operation, it discovered a new galaxy called GLASS-z13 which was further away than any other galaxy ever observed. The galaxy is a small cluster created 13.78 billion years ago, only a few million years after the Big Bang.
The JWST is giving us a new lens into some iconic galaxies and clusters including the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is an 11.2-billion-year-old galaxy located 160 000 light years away from Earth. The JWST is identifying the structure and formation of ancient stars within the galaxy, further developing our understanding of the evolution of stars as well as the systems surrounding their birth.
The JWST’s ability to see galaxies through an infrared lens is helping scientists in the discovery of very old stars in our Universe. Since it can see objects which existed long ago, we have learnt a massive amount of information about a specific period called the “Cosmic Noon.” This is the point in the Universe’s history where a vast number of stars were born.
One of the most fascinating discoveries made by the JWST so far is the discovery of the internal structure of the galaxy named ic-5332. It was first discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope many years ago, which observed it to be a large spiral shaped gas cloud composed of a myriad of different stars and colours. When the JWST observed the galaxy with its infrared instrument, it found a galaxy made of a skeletal network of large spiraling columns of gas, resembling a spider’s web.
It has been nearly a year since the JWST launched into orbit and began to captivate the world with its findings. If the JWST was able to discover all of this in a year, imagine what it might reveal in a decade. What else remains undiscovered or just out of our reach?
Photo Credit: Northtrop Grumman