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The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a unique perspective of the universe, including never-before-seen galaxies glittering like diamonds in the cosmos.
The new image, shared Wednesday as part of a study published in the Astronomical Journal, was created as part of the Prime Extragalactic Areas for Reionization and Lensing Science observing program called PEARLS.
It is one of the first medium-deep-wide-field images of the universe, with “medium-deep” meaning the faintest objects visible, and “wide-field” referring to the part of the cosmos shown in the image has been recorded.
“Webb’s stunning image quality is truly out of this world,” co-author Anton Koekemoer, a research astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who pieced together the PEARLS images into mosaics, said in a statement. “To glimpse very rare galaxies at the beginning of cosmic time, we need deep images of a large area, which this PEARLS field provides.”
Focusing on a part of the sky called the North Ecliptic Pole, the Webb telescope was able to use eight different colors of near-infrared light to see celestial objects 1 billion times fainter than what can be seen with the naked eye.
Thousands of galaxies shine from different distances, and some of the light in the image has traveled nearly 13.5 billion years to reach us.
“I was blown away by the first PEARLS images,” study co-author Rolf Jansen, an Arizona State University researcher and PEARLS co-investigator, said in a statement.
“When I selected this field near the North Ecliptic Pole, I didn’t realize it would yield such a wealth of distant galaxies and that we would get direct clues to the processes by which galaxies converge and grow,” he said. , tails, shells and halos of stars in their suburbs, the remains of their building blocks.”
Researchers combined Webb data with three colors of ultraviolet and visible light captured by the Hubble Space Telescope to create the image. Together, the wavelengths of light from both telescopes reveal unprecedented depth and detail of a wealth of galaxies in the universe. Many of these distant galaxies have always eluded Hubble, as have ground-based telescopes.
The image represents only part of the full PEARLS field, which will be about four times as large. The mosaic is even better than scientists had expected after running simulations in the months before Webb began scientific observations in July.
“There are many objects that I never thought we could actually see, including individual globular clusters around distant elliptical galaxies, nodes of star formation in spiral galaxies, and thousands of faint background galaxies,” said study co-author Jake Summers. . a research assistant at Arizona State University, in a statement.
Other pinpricks in the image represent a series of stars in our Milky Way galaxy.
Measuring diffused light in front of and behind the stars and galaxies in the image is like “coding the history of the universe,” because it tells a story about cosmic evolution, according to study co-author Rosalia O’Brien, a graduate research assistant. at Arizona State University. University, in a statement.
The PEARLS team hopes to see more objects in this region in the future, such as distant exploding stars or flashes of light around black holes, as they vary in brightness.
“This unique field was designed to be observable with Webb 365 days a year, so the legacy of the time domain, area covered, and depth reached can only get better with time,” said lead study author Rogier Windhorst, a regent professor at the Arizona Institute of Technology. State University. and PEARLS principal investigator, in a statement.