A pixelated image showing a red dot on a black margin

NASA’s Webb Space Telescope reveals twinkling universe in largest image yet

For the James Webb Space Telescope, milestones come one after the other. The groundbreaking instrument wowed mankind after releasing its first interstellar view, nebula portraits and stellar artifacts, and more than a month later, it has given us the largest image yet.

Last week, international scientists affiliated with the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Scientific Survey (CEERS) presented a huge full-color mosaic generated from data collected by JWST. This record-breaking mural, known as Epoch 1, covers a small patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper constellation.

This pixelated red dot may be a galaxy that existed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang — otherwise known as Messi’s galaxy. Scale bar is 1 kiloparsec (about 3,260 light-years).

Finkelstein et al. (2022)/NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

CEERS cooperation has been Reveal Epoch 1, many of which have sent astronomers spiraling down the rabbit hole discovered by JWST, where they published papers on the good stuff about the Milky Way. For example, CEERS project leader Steven Finkelstein Contribution announced last month For a “very convincing” galaxy candidate, the galaxy may have existed only 290 million years after the Big Bang. It’s named Messi’s Galaxy, after his daughter as it was discovered on her birthday.

But now, CEERS says, Epoch 1 is officially complete.

For how complete the context big The team explained that the area covered by this final image is about eight times the size of JWST’s first deep field, released on July 11, which is already incredibly large. The final mosaic, composed of 690 individual frames captured by JWST’s near-infrared camera, will be based on observations scheduled for December.

“Phase 1 covers less than half of our total survey area in the sky, and these images have already led to new discoveries and an unexpected but not unwelcome large number of never-before-seen images,” the CEERS team said in a press release. galaxies.” .

You can download a medium or high resolution version of the image here – but if you’re shooting for the latter, as I did, CEERS recommends a computer or laptop. Due to the size of the file, your phone may start having problems.

OK, now that you’ve successfully accessed the images, let’s discuss some highlights. According to the CEERS team, there are six main points of interest. Here is a diagram.

Here is a complete schematic of the CEERS Epoch 1 image. At the bottom is a close-up of some of the highlights in the mosaic.

NASA/STScI/CEERS/TACC/S. Finkelstein/M. Bagley/Z.Levi

First, in (1), there is a spiral galaxy in the upper left corner, which emits a redshift of z = 0.16.

Redshift is essentially how astronomers measure how far away an object is, and therefore how far back in time it is. It’s named because as a luminous object slides further from our vantage point, the light it emits gets redder and redder, eventually falling into the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, invisible to the human eye. Fear not, though, because JWST can also collect “invisible” light, which is why it promises to unravel the “unfiltered universe,” a phrase you’ve probably seen online.

Simply put, a greater redshift means something is further away from Earth.

Next, in (2), towards the center of the image is a bright galaxy with a redshift of z = 1.05. This point also hosts several smaller galaxies, which appear as arcs when viewed with the JWST. On Aug. 15, Rebecca Larson, a PhD student in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin and a CEERS collaborator, tweeted her cute name for the scene.

“TBT late into the night when I decided this galaxy…looked like Pac-Man, then started covering that minion, laughing so hard, we all decided it was time to go home,” Larson writes.

To the right of that group, (3) shows an interacting galaxy system at z = 1.4. Larson tweeted that Finkelstein nicknamed it the “Space Kraken.” It does look a lot like a terrifying ancient sea monster.

Move one more, to (4), and you’ll notice a pair of spiral galaxies — in the zoomed-in version at the bottom of the figure, a white arrow points to a supernova in this part of the sky, also by JWST. The redshift here is z = 0.7. CEERS published a paper last month specifically addressing these phenomena, because comparing the JWST’s duo’s version with the Hubble Space Telescope’s version could provide a lot of new information.

Below this, (5) shows another special spiral galaxy at z = 0.7, and finally (6) is a z = 0.63 galaxy at z = 1.85 with a tidal tail and a group of red galaxies in the background. “I tried to call this feature ‘spatial chaos,’ but people in the press said ‘no,'” Larson tweeted of the chaotic sight.

Of course, CEERS also highlighted Maisie’s galaxy in the close-up image below. If Finkelstein and his colleagues are right about this galaxy existing 290 million light-years after the Big Bang, its redshift of z=14 is staggering. Furthermore, it basically proves that galaxies formed in the universe much earlier than astronomers once thought.

The dark background of space shows different angles of the Mercy galaxy. The closest version of the image is at the bottom left, depicting a reddish blob of light.

This is an image showing a galaxy known as the Macy’s Galaxy.

NASA/STScI/CEERS/TACC/S. Finkelstein/M. Bagley/Z.Levi

However, due to the large number of ultra-distant galaxy candidates discovered since the onset of JWST, Many scientists are guarding against the possibility of false hopeFor example, a paper published earlier this month in The Astrophysical Journal by CEERS collaborators highlighted the potential for error in examining these high-redshift domains. Uncorrelated cosmic phenomena can basically be photo-bombing the data and thus contaminate the results.

Nonetheless, we find ourselves in an exciting new era of astronomy.

“I hope you’re as awe-inspiring and excited about this telescope and data as I am. I’m so lucky to share them with you, and hopefully you’ll find your new favorite galaxies in it too!” Larson summed up on Twitter A great thread on the CEERS map.

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