Maisie's Galaxy is officially recognized as one of the oldest։ It was created 390 million years after the Big Bang

August 16, 2023  22:28

A distant red blob, initially lurking in the depths of a space image, has now been validated as one of the earliest galaxies ever discovered in the cosmos. Named "Maisie's Galaxy" after the daughter of astronomer Steven Finkelstein, who made the discovery on her birthday, this celestial entity has shed light on the Universe's infancy and the complexities of observational analysis.

Spectroscopic examination conducted by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has confirmed that Maisie's Galaxy emerged approximately 390 million years following the cataclysmic event of the Big Bang. Although this revelation places its birth slightly later than previously conjectured, it officially cements the galaxy's status as one of the Universe's oldest confirmed formations. This breakthrough comes courtesy of a team led by astronomer Pablo Arrabal Haro of the US National Science Foundation's NOIRLab.

The significance of this discovery transcends its mere chronological placement. Astronomers have long speculated that the early Universe was populated with celestial bodies, and Maisie's Galaxy validates this hypothesis, emphasizing the importance of meticulous analysis in unraveling the cosmos's mysteries.

Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin, who named the galaxy, underlines the remarkable nature of Maisie's Galaxy's identification. It holds the distinction of being the first distant galaxy singled out by the JWST and subsequently verified through spectroscopic examination. This achievement adds a layer of confidence to future space observations, stressing the need for precision in interpreting JWST data.

In the cosmic quest to comprehend the Universe's origins, the concept of redshift serves as a crucial tool. The expansion of the Universe results in the observable shift of light emitted by distant celestial bodies towards the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum. This phenomenon, represented by the letter 'z,' assists astronomers in deducing the age of distant objects.

The James Webb Space Telescope, with its ability to study the Universe through infrared wavelengths, offers an unprecedented window into the early Universe. Maisie's Galaxy is a prime example of how JWST's capabilities have revolutionized our understanding of cosmic history.

However, discerning the precise redshift value can be complex. Finkelstein and his team initially estimated Maisie's Galaxy's redshift using photometry, which measures the brightness of light through various filters. This method yielded a redshift estimate of z~12, corresponding to an age of around 366 million years after the Big Bang. Refinement followed as the team employed JWST's spectroscopic instrument, NIRSpec. This approach divided the light into distinct near-infrared wavelengths, resulting in a more accurate redshift of z=11.4, corresponding to approximately 390 million years post-Big Bang.

The research expanded beyond Maisie's Galaxy to analyze two other early Universe galaxies identified in the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey. While one of these galaxies corroborated its photometric redshift estimate, the other exhibited a significant discrepancy. CEERS-93316, initially thought to be 250 million years post-Big Bang at redshift z≃16.4, had its redshift recalculated to z=4.9 after spectroscopic analysis.

This recalibration highlights the complexity of deciphering high redshifts and avoiding misidentifications. Finkelstein reflects on the implications of these findings, remarking that the outcome was expected due to the extreme brightness and unique attributes of CEERS-93316.

In closing, these discoveries shed light on the early Universe's rich tapestry and the advancements that modern technology, epitomized by the JWST, has brought to astronomical research. As we continue to peer into the cosmos, it is clear that every new revelation deepens our appreciation for the mysteries that lie beyond.

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