The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has made a monumental discovery, revealing two of the most distant galaxies ever observed, thanks to a unique cosmic phenomenon.
Scientists from Penn State University utilized the JWST to probe behind Pandora’s Cluster, or Abell 2744, a massive galaxy cluster located 3.5 billion light-years away. This cluster acts as a gravitational lens, warping space-time and magnifying light from distant cosmic objects.
The gravitational lensing effect of Pandora’s Cluster enabled the researchers to detect two previously unseen galaxies, situated an astonishing 33 billion light-years from Earth. These galaxies, named UNCOVER z-13 and UNCOVER z-12, are among the farthest ever observed, with only three other galaxies known to be at a comparable distance.
What sets these two galaxies apart is not just their immense distance but also their unique shapes. Unlike most distant galaxies that appear as mere dots in images, one of these galaxies resembles a “peanut,” while the other looks like a “fluffy ball.” This variation in shape, despite forming from similar cosmic materials, presents an intriguing puzzle for astronomers.
The light from these galaxies is ancient, dating back to a time when the universe was in its infancy, about three times older than Earth. Joel Leja, a member of the Penn State research team, highlights the significance of this discovery. He explains that these early galaxies act as beacons, their light piercing through the thin hydrogen gas that filled the early universe. By studying the light from these galaxies, scientists can begin to unravel the exotic physics that shaped the cosmos near the dawn of time.
This groundbreaking discovery by the JWST offers a rare glimpse into the universe’s earliest epochs, opening new windows into the study of galaxy formation and evolution at the cosmic dawn.
Reference(s): Research Paper