Rare red spiral galaxies discovered from the early universe with the James Webb Space Telescope

graphic abstract. Credit: Waseda University, Japan.

Spiral galaxies represent one of the coolest features of our universe. Among them, spiral galaxies in the distant universe contain important information about their origin and evolution. However, we had a limited understanding of these galaxies due to them being too far away to study in detail.

“While these galaxies have already been detected among previous observations using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope, their limited spatial resolution and/or sensitivity did not allow us to study their detailed shapes and properties,” explains junior researcher Yoshinobu Fudamoto of Waseda University. In Japan, who was researching the evolution of galaxies.

Now, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has taken things to the next level. In its first imaging of galaxy cluster SMACS J0723.3-7327, JWST has been able to capture infrared images of a group of red spiral galaxies with unprecedented resolution, revealing their morphology in detail!

Against this background, in a recently published article in Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of researchers consisting of junior researcher Yoshinobu Fudamoto, Professor Akio K. Inoue, and Dr. Yuma Sugahara of Waseda University, Japan, have revealed amazing insights into these red spiral galaxies.

Among the many red spiral galaxies that have been discovered, researchers have focused on the two most extremely red, RS13 and RS14. Using spectral energy distribution (SED) analysis, the researchers measured the energy distribution over a wide wavelength range of these galaxies. SED analysis revealed that these red spiral galaxies belonged to the early universe from a period known as “cosmic noon” (8-10 billion years ago), which followed the Big Bang and “cosmic dawn”.

Rare red spiral galaxies discovered from the early universe with the James Webb Space Telescope

As a marked improvement over the previous IRAC image (above), JWST’s unprecedented spatial resolution and high infrared sensitivity reveal morphological details of red spiral galaxies (below) RS13 and RS14. This facilitates detailed analysis that reveals hitherto unknown features of red spiral galaxies belonging to the early universe. Credit: Yoshinobu Fudamoto from Waseda University, Japan.

Remarkably, these galaxies are among the most distant spiral galaxies known to date.

The rare red spiral galaxies represent only 2% of the galaxies in the local universe. This detection of red spiral galaxies in the early universe, from JWST observations covering a tiny fraction of space, indicates that these spiral galaxies were present in large numbers in the early universe.

The researchers further discovered that one of the red spiral galaxies, RS14, is a “passive” (not star-forming) spiral galaxy, contrary to the intuitive expectation that galaxies in the early universe would actively form stars. This detection of a negative spiral galaxy in JWST’s limited field of view is particularly surprising, as it indicates that such negative spiral galaxies could also exist in large numbers in the early universe.

Overall, the results of this study greatly enhance our knowledge of red spiral galaxies, and the universe as a whole. “Our study showed for the first time that excitable spiral galaxies could be abundant in the early universe. While this paper is an empirical study on spiral galaxies in the early universe, confirmation and expansion of this study will greatly influence our understanding of the formation and evolution of galactic shapes.” Fudamoto concludes.

more information:
Yoshinobu Fudamoto et al., Cosmic Noon’s red spiral galaxies unveiled in first JWST image, Astrophysical Journal Letters (2022). DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac982b

Provided by Waseda University

the quote: Discovery of a rare red spiral galaxy cluster from the early universe with the James Webb Space Telescope (2022, December 13) Retrieved December 14, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-12-rare-red-spiral-galaxy- population. html

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