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The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a unique perspective of the universe, including never-before-seen galaxies that sparkle like diamonds in the cosmos.
The new image, published Wednesday as part of a study published in the Astronomical Journal, was taken as part of the Prime Extragalactic Area Program for Reionization and Lensing Science, called PEARLS.
It is one of the first wide-field, mean-depth images of the universe, with “medium-depth” meaning the faintest visible object, and “wide-field” referring to the region of the universe captured in the image.
“Webb’s amazing image quality is truly out of this world,” study co-author Anton Kwikmore, a research astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who compiled the PEARLS images into a mosaic, said in a statement. “To look at very rare galaxies at the dawn of cosmic time, we need deep imaging over a large area, which is what this PEARLS field provides.”
Webb’s telescope focused on a part of the sky called the northern ecliptic pole and was able to use eight different colors of near-infrared light to see celestial objects that are a billion times fainter than what can be seen with the naked eye.
Thousands of galaxies shine at 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, research scientist at Arizona State University and co-investigator for PEARLS, said in a statement.
Little did I know, he said, when I selected this field near the North Pole, that it would yield a treasure trove of distant galaxies, and that we would get direct evidence about the processes by which galaxies gather and grow. “I can see streams and tails and shells and halos of stars in its suburbs, and the remains of its building blocks.”
The researchers combined Webb’s 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 for the wealth of galaxies in the universe. Many of these distant galaxies have long eluded Hubble, as well as ground-based telescopes.
The image represents only a portion of the full PEARLS field, which will be about four times larger. The mosaic is even better than scientists expected after running simulations in the months before Webb began making science observations in July.
“There are many things I never thought we’d actually be able to see, including individual globular clusters around distant elliptical galaxies, star-forming nodes within spiral galaxies, and thousands of faint background galaxies,” said study co-author Jake Summers, Associate. researcher at Arizona State University, in a statement.
Other flickers in the image represent a group of stars in our Milky Way galaxy.
Measuring the light scattered in front of and behind the stars and galaxies in the image is like “coding the history of the universe” because it tells the story of cosmic evolution, according to study co-author Rosalia O’Brien, graduate research assistant at Arizona State. University in a statement.
In the future, the PEARLS team hopes to see more objects in this region, such as distant exploding stars or glows of light around black holes, because they vary in brightness.
“This unique field was designed to be observed with Webb 365 days a year, so the legacy of the time scale, area covered and depth reached can only get better with time,” said Roger Windhorst, lead study author. and PEARLS’ principal investigator, in a statement.
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