A red stain in James Webb’s image could reveal the chemistry of the early universe

A red stain in James Webb’s image could reveal the chemistry of the early universe

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

The inconspicuous smudge is an unnamed ancient 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 the farthest from Earth.

It was captured in the deepest, sharpest infrared image of the distant universe ever recorded, and released to the world as part of the $10 billion observatory’s first color image series ( £7.4million) last week.

When researchers expand the light from an individual galaxy into a spectrum, they can learn more about the galaxy’s chemical makeup, temperature, and density of ionized gas.

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

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

Hidden secrets: A tiny red speck captured in the distant background of the James Webb Space Telescope's first 'deep field' image could help unlock the chemistry of the early universe

Hidden secrets: A tiny red speck captured in the distant background of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first ‘deep field’ image could help unlock the chemistry of the early universe

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

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

INSTRUMENTS ON THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE

NIR Cam (Near InfraRed Camera) an infrared imager from the edge of visible through near infrared

NIR spec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) will also perform spectroscopy on the same wavelength range.

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

FGS/NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph), is 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 in the telescope’s field of view.

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

Among the galaxy’s various elements was a fingerprint of glowing oxygen gas, known as the emission line.

NIRSpec team member Andrew Bunker, from the University of Oxford, said experts were hoping to observe this line in distant galaxies, but expected to have to search for “tens or hundreds” or targets before to spot her.

“I don’t think we really dreamed that in the first shot, which was mostly publicity, it would be there. It’s really amazing,” he told New Scientist.

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

If it can then be compared to other emission lines in the light of a galaxy, then it is possible to decipher the number of chemicals in the galaxy, based on the chemical fingerprints in a spectrum.

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

As astronomers begin to analyze Webb’s data, we’ll learn a great deal about the galaxies that have existed throughout cosmic time — and how they compare to the beautiful spiral and elliptical galaxies of the neighboring universe.

More spectra like 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 on that evolution,” Emma Chapman, an astrophysicist at the University of Nottingham, told New Scientist.

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

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

Webb’s infrared abilities allow him to “go back in time” to the Big Bang, which happened 13.8 billion years ago. Light waves travel extremely fast, about 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second, every second. The further away an object is, the further back in time. This is because of the time it takes light to travel from the object to us

‘So you can start to think how fast 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 and unprecedented images of a “stellar nursery”, a dying star covered in dust and a “cosmic dance” between a group of galaxies were revealed to the world for the first time. .

It ended months of feverish waiting and anticipation as people around the world were treated to the first batch of a treasure trove of images that will culminate in the first look at the dawn of the universe.

Webb’s infrared abilities mean he can ‘go back in time’ just 100-200 million years to the Big Bang, allowing him to snap photos of the very first stars to shine in the universe a while ago. more than 13.5 billion years old.

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

Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the masses, ages, histories, and compositions of galaxies, as Webb seeks to explore the earliest galaxies in the universe.

THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE

The James Webb Telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unlock 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 moons and planets in our solar system.

The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $7bn (£5bn), is seen as the successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope

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

It is the largest and most powerful orbiting space telescope in the world, capable of observing 100 to 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 rather than a replacement, as the two will be working in tandem for some time.

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

It circles the Earth at a speed of approximately 17,000 mph (27,300 km/h) in low Earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 340 miles.

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