A red spot in the James Webb image can unlock the chemistry of the early universe

A red spot in the James Webb image can unlock the chemistry of the early universe

A small red spot trapped in the distant background of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first “deep field” image could transform our understanding of the early universe, astronomers say.

The unobtrusive blob is an ancient, nameless galaxy that is 13.1 billion years old – only several hundred million years younger than the birth of the universe. Of all the galaxies captured in the image, it is furthest from Earth.

It was captured in the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe ever recorded, and released to the world as part of the observatory’s first set of full-color images last week.

As scientists extend the light from an individual galaxy into a spectrum, they can learn about the chemical composition, temperature, and density of the galaxy’s ionized gas.

For example, the spectrum of this galaxy will reveal the properties of the gas, which will indicate how the stars are formed and how much dust it contains.

Such information has never before been discovered from so far away with this quality.

A red spot in the James Webb image can unlock the chemistry of the early universe

Hidden secrets: A small red spot trapped in the distant background of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first “deep field” image may help unlock the chemistry of the early universe

Far-away: It was captured in the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe ever recorded (the image) and released to the world last week as part of Webb's first images

Far-away: It was captured in the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe ever recorded (the image) and released to the world last week as part of Webb’s first images

INSTRUMENTS ON JAMES WEB TELESCOPE

NIRCam (Near InfraRed Camera) an infrared camera from the edge of the visible through the near infrared

NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) will also perform spectroscopy over the same wavelength range.

MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) will measure the medium to long infrared wavelength range from 5 to 27 micrometers.

FGS / NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph), used to stabilize the line of sight of the observatory during scientific observations.

The spectrum itself was produced by Webb’s NIRSpec instrument, which uses tiny windows to isolate and analyze light from objects within the field of view of the telescope.

This meant that only the starlight of the old galaxy was allowed to pass through, to reveal its chemical signatures, while other light from closer bright objects was blocked out.

Among the various elements in the galaxy was a fingerprint of glowing oxygen gas, known as a discharge line.

NIRSpec team member Andrew Bunker, of the University of Oxford, said experts had hoped to observe this line in galaxies far away, but expected to have to search “thousands or hundreds” or targets before they discovered it.

“I don’t really think we dreamed it would be there in the first, really the publication, the snap. It’s actually pretty amazing, he told New Scientist.

The reason the oxygen emission line is important is because astronomers use it to calibrate their measurements of compositions of galaxies.

If it can then be compared with other emission lines in the light of a galaxy, it is possible to indicate how many chemicals are in the galaxy, based on the chemical fingerprints in a spectrum.

This has been done before for nearby galaxies, but not distant galaxies like the red spot in Web’s deep field.

As astronomers begin to analyze Web’s data, we’ll learn an incredible amount about galaxies that existed throughout cosmic times – and how they can be compared to the beautiful spiral and elliptical galaxies of the nearby universe.

Several spectra such as this will allow scientists to explore how the proportion of elements heavier than helium in distant galaxies has changed over time.

“It gives you data points about that evolution,” Emma Chapman, an astrophysicist at the University of Nottingham, told New Scientist.

The spectrum itself was produced by Web's NIRSpec instrument, which uses small windows to isolate and analyze light from objects within the field of view of the telescope.

The spectrum itself was produced by Web’s NIRSpec instrument, which uses small windows to isolate and analyze light from objects within the field of view of the telescope.

Web’s infrared capabilities allow it to “look back in time” to the Big Bang, which occurred 13.8 billion years ago. Light waves travel extremely fast, about 300,000 km per second, every second. The farther away an object is, the further back in time we see. This is due to the time it takes light to travel from the object to us

“So you can start thinking about how quickly the first stars died and polluted the gas [to] create the second generation of stars that this galaxy is made of. ‘

Last week, Webb’s dazzling, unique images of a “star nursery”, dying star covered in dust and a “cosmic dance” between a group of galaxies were revealed to the world for the first time.

It put an end to months of waiting and feverish anticipation as people across the globe were treated to the first pile of a treasure trove of images that will culminate in the earliest glance ever on the morning of the universe.

Web’s infrared capabilities mean that it can “look back in time” to just 100-200 million years after the Big Bang, allowing it to take pictures of the very first stars shining in the universe more than 13.5 billion years ago.

The first images of nebulae, an exoplanet and galaxy clusters triggered a huge celebration in the scientific world, on what was hailed as a “great day for humanity”.

Scientists will soon begin to learn more about the masses, age, history and composition of galaxies, as Webb attempts to explore the earliest galaxies in the universe.

THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE

The James Webb Telescope has been described as a ‘time machine’ that can help uncover the secrets of our universe.

The telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.

The huge telescope, which has already cost more than $ 7 billion (£ 5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

The James Webb Telescope and most of the instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).

It is the world’s largest and most powerful orbital space telescope, capable of looking back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.

The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble instead of a replacement, as the two will work together for a while.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It orbits the earth at a speed of about 17,000 mph (27,300 km / h) in low earth orbit for about 340 miles in altitude.

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