April 13, 2024

“Cosmic Lighthouses” – Webb unlocks the secrets of the universe’s first light

Using data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scientists have revealed the first spectra of starlight, revealing the central role of low-mass galaxies in the dawn of the Universe. Credit: SciTechDaily.com

Groundbreaking JWST observations reveal the fundamental role of low-mass galaxies in the reionization of the early universe, challenging existing theories of cosmic evolution.

Scientists working with data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have obtained the first complete spectra of some of the universe’s earliest starlight. The images provide the clearest picture yet of very low-mass newborn galaxies, created less than a billion years after the Big Bang, and suggest that small galaxies are central to the cosmic origin story.

The international team of researchers, including two Penn State astrophysicists, recently published their results in the journal Nature. The spectra reveal some of the first visible light from a period of the universe known as reionization, which was driven by the arrival of the first stars and galaxies.

Ultrafaint galaxies James Webb Space Telescope

Deep-field images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have provided the first glimpses of ultrafaint galaxies that researchers have identified as strong candidates for the objects that triggered the reionization of the universe. Credit: Hakim Atek/Sorbonne University/JWST

The Early Universe: A Transition from Darkness to Light

Normal matter in the Universe began as a hot, dense fog made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium nuclei, explained Joel Leja, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and author of the paper. As it expanded and cooled, isolated protons and electrons began to bond together, forming neutral hydrogen for the first time. Then, about 500 to 900 million years after the

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