James Webb Space Telescope Reveals Surprising Shapes of Early Universe Galaxies

James Webb Space Telescope Reveals Surprising Shapes of Early Universe Galaxies

New observations using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have shed light on the shapes of galaxies in the early universe. Contrary to previous beliefs, many small galaxies in the early universe were found to be elongated and flat, resembling surfboards or frisbees. The study, led by Columbia University astronomers, used data from the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) program to analyze galaxies spanning from 600 million to 6 billion years after the Big Bang.

The research discovered that approximately 50 to 80% of the galaxies studied appeared flattened in two dimensions. This is surprising considering that these shapes are uncommon in nearby galaxies. The findings challenge previous observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope, which suggested that massive galaxies in the early universe took on the form of oblate spheroids.

The JWST’s advanced capabilities provided a clearer view of the early galaxies and revealed their true shapes. It is now evident that these elongated galaxies likely formed within haloes of dark matter that align with cosmic web filaments. The constant mergers with other small galaxies along these filaments led to the growth of chains of elongated galaxies.

As the universe aged, the cosmic web filaments dispersed, causing a decrease in the merger rate and a shift in galaxy shapes. The elongated, surfboard-like galaxies transitioned into more disk-like oblate structures. Additionally, spheroid-shaped galaxies became more abundant over time, eventually evolving into the giant elliptical galaxies seen today.

These findings highlight the importance of hierarchical mergers in understanding the evolution of galaxies. By studying the shapes of early galaxies, scientists can gain insights into their formation processes and how they have evolved throughout cosmic history.

The results of this groundbreaking research will be detailed in an upcoming paper in The Astrophysical Journal. With the remarkable capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers are poised to further explore the mysteries of the early universe and unlock even more revelations about the shapes and origins of galaxies.

An FAQ section based on the main topics and information presented in the article:

Q: What did the observations using the James Webb Space Telescope reveal about the shapes of galaxies in the early universe?
A: The observations revealed that many small galaxies in the early universe were elongated and flat, resembling surfboards or frisbees. This is contrary to previous beliefs that these galaxies took on the form of oblate spheroids.

Q: What data was used in the study?
A: The study used data from the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) program to analyze galaxies spanning from 600 million to 6 billion years after the Big Bang.

Q: How many of the galaxies studied appeared flattened in two dimensions?
A: Approximately 50 to 80% of the galaxies studied appeared flattened in two dimensions.

Q: How do these shapes compare to nearby galaxies?
A: These shapes are uncommon in nearby galaxies, which makes the findings surprising.

Q: What provided a clearer view of the early galaxies and revealed their true shapes?
A: The James Webb Space Telescope’s advanced capabilities provided a clearer view and revealed the true shapes of the early galaxies.

Q: How did the elongated galaxies likely form?
A: The elongated galaxies likely formed within haloes of dark matter that align with cosmic web filaments. Constant mergers with other small galaxies along these filaments led to the growth of chains of elongated galaxies.

Q: What caused a shift in the shapes of galaxies as the universe aged?
A: The dispersal of cosmic web filaments caused a decrease in the merger rate and a shift in galaxy shapes. Elongated galaxies transitioned into more disk-like oblate structures, and spheroid-shaped galaxies became more abundant over time.

Q: What do these findings highlight?
A: These findings highlight the importance of hierarchical mergers in understanding the evolution of galaxies.

Q: Where will the results of this research be detailed?
A: The results of this research will be detailed in an upcoming paper in The Astrophysical Journal.

Definitions for key terms and jargon used within the article:

– James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): A space telescope that is set to be the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. It is designed to observe the universe in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
– Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) program: A program that aims to study the early universe using data from the James Webb Space Telescope.
– Big Bang: The scientific theory that suggests the universe originated from a highly dense and hot state approximately 13.8 billion years ago.
– Hubble Space Telescope: A space telescope launched in 1990 that has made numerous observations and discoveries about the universe.
– Oblate spheroids: Three-dimensional shapes that are flattened and elongated in two dimensions, resembling a rugby ball.
– Haloes of dark matter: Regions of space that are thought to contain large amounts of invisible and undetectable matter called dark matter.
– Cosmic web filaments: Large-scale structures in the universe made up of dark matter and gas that connect galaxies and galaxy clusters.

Suggested related links:
James Webb Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
Research on hierarchical mergers and galaxy formation processes
European Space Agency/Hubble Space Telescope