James Webb Telescope reveals galaxies barred billions of years ago

James Webb Telescope reveals galaxies barred billions of years ago

James Webb Telescope reveals galaxies barred billions of years ago

New images for the first time James Webb Space Telescope have revealed galaxies with stellar beams at a time when the universe was a quarter of its current age.

Stellar bars are elongated features of stars that extend from the centers of galaxies to their outer disks. They funnel gas into central regions, boosting star formation.

In a press release, the University of Texas said the find of the bar galaxies will require scientists to refine their theories of galaxy evolution, noting that the Hubble Space Telescope had never detected bars in such early eras.

For example, while the galaxy EGS-23205 appears blurry in a Hubble image, Webb’s image is more defined, revealing a spiral galaxy with a distinct stellar bar.

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James Webb Telescope reveals galaxies barred billions of years ago

JWST’s power to map galaxies at high resolution and at longer infrared wavelengths than Hubble allows it to see through dust and reveal the underlying structure and mass of distant galaxies. This can be seen in these two images of the galaxy EGS23205, as it appeared about 11 billion years ago. In the HST image (left, taken with the near-infrared filter), the galaxy is little more than a disc-shaped spot obscured by dust and affected by the glare of young stars, but in the corresponding JWST image in the mid-infrared (taken last summer), it is a beautiful spiral galaxy with a clear stellar bar.
(Credit: NASA/CEERS/University of Texas at Austin)

The James Webb Space Telescope has a larger mirror, which allows it to capture more light and see farther at a higher resolution.

As it notes longer infrared wavelengths than Hubbleit can also see through fabric better.

“I took one look at this data and I said, ‘We’re dropping everything else!'” Shardha Jogee, an astronomy professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement describing data from the Cosmic Evolution. Early Release Science Survey (CEERS).

Dave Chaney, chief optical test engineer at Ball Aerospace, inspects six primary mirror segments, critical elements of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, ahead of cryogenic testing in the X-ray & amp;  Cryogenic facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Dave Chaney, chief optical test engineer at Ball Aerospace, inspects six primary mirror segments, critical elements of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, ahead of cryogenic testing in the X-ray & amp; Cryogenic facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
(Credit: NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham)

Another bar galaxy, EGS-24268, is also from about 11 billion years ago — making two bar galaxies exist further back in time than previously discovered.

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The international group of researchers highlighted these galaxies and showed examples of four others from more than 8 billion years ago in an article in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Montage of JWST images of six sample bar galaxies, two of which represent the highest lookback times quantitatively identified and characterized to date.  The labels in the upper left corner of each figure show the lookback time of each galaxy, ranging from 8.4 to 11 billion years ago (Gyr), when the universe was only 40% to 20% of its current age.

Montage of JWST images of six sample bar galaxies, two of which represent the highest lookback times quantitatively identified and characterized to date. The labels in the upper left corner of each figure show the lookback time of each galaxy, ranging from 8.4 to 11 billion years ago (Gyr), when the universe was only 40% to 20% of its current age.
(Credit: NASA/CEERS/University of Texas at Austin)

Two undergraduate students visually played a key role view hundreds of galaxies and search for those that can be analyzed with a more rigorous mathematical approach.

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Bars also aid in the formation of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, partially channeling the gas.

The existence of these rods, the university said, challenges theoretical models, and the team will test different models in additional work.

“This discovery of early rods means that galaxy evolution models now have a new pathway through rods to accelerate the production of new stars in early epochs,” Jogee said.



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