James Webb Captures Star Formation

From the image posted by James Webb on July 31, researchers have studied the formation of stars in the early moments of the Cosmos.
The James Webb Space Telescope captured this image of a galaxy cluster (SMACS0723). The five magnified galaxies are so distant that we observe them as they were when the universe was between one and five billion years old. Credit: NASA

Thanks to the first image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, posted on July 13th, researchers have been able to examine the formation of stars inside galaxies for the first time. In an article published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (ref.), researchers from the University of Stockholm focused on the first phase of star formation in distant galaxies.

The portion of the sky being considered had already been previously observed by other telescopes, such as Hubble and Chandra, as part of the Southern Massive Cluster Survey (SMACS) project. The portion known as SMACS0723 is a cluster of galaxies located 5.12 billion light-years away from Earth within the southern constellation of Flying Fish.

Magnifying Lens Effect

“The galaxy clusters we studied are so massive that they bend the light passing through their center, as predicted by Einstein. This phenomenon creates a kind of magnifying lens effect, and the images of the galaxies in the background appear enlarged” explains Adélaïde Claeyssens.

The magnifying lens effect, along with the remarkable resolution of James Webb, allow researchers to observe star clusters, in very compact and distant galaxy structures. These observations allow us to increase our understanding between star formation and the evolution of galaxies, only a few million years after the Big Bang.

“The images and the resolving power of the James Webb show that we can now detect very structures within very distant galaxies and star formation. Furthermore, we can see these clusters in many of these galaxies. The telescope is a turning point for the entire field of research and helps us understand how galaxies form and evolve” says Angela Adamo, co-author of the study. The oldest galaxy studied in the document is so far away. That we observe it as it was 13 billion years ago, when the universe was only 680 million years old.

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