The James Webb Telescope observes the most distant star clusters ever seen

He James Webb Space Telescope observed five star clusters in a galaxy just 460 million years after the Big Bang, so they may be first candidates for protoglobular clusters known today.

Just two years ago, many of the mysteries of space remained hidden from astronomers, but the arrival of James Webb from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian agency changed the situation. This technological miracle opened a new era in astronomical research.

An infrared telescope can see cold objects that are very far away or hidden in dustallowing you to peer into the early Universe and see objects as old as the clusters you just discovered.

“These structures are the oldest star clusters ever discovered and may be precursors to the globular clusters we now see in our galaxy,” he continues. Yolanda Jimenezresearcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) and co-author of the work.

A study that could shed light on how galaxies formed in the early Universe was carried out by Stockholm University (Sweden) and published this Monday in the journal. Nature.

Gravity lenses

Direct observation of these structures would be impossible without the help of gravitational lenses—large clumps of matter that stand in the line of sight of distant galaxies and act as “magnifying glasses” that magnify and sometimes distort objects behind them. image in the shape of an arch.

In this case, the galaxy cluster SPT-CL J0615−5746 expanded the light of the arc galaxy. Space Jewels460 million light years after the Big Bang, thanks to which, thanks to James Webb, scientists were able to “unravel its fascinating structure,” the IAA-CSIC researcher specifies.

With extraordinary resolution and sensitivity, Webb’s observations revealed five compact dots perfectly distributed along the arc of the Cosmic Jewels, as if it were a necklace.

The five gems appeared almost symmetrically duplicated at the other end of the arc, “an unmistakable sign that these were the points at which the magnification power of the lens group was greatest,” he notes. Jose M. Diegoscientist at the Institute of Physics of Cantabria (IFCACSIC-UC), a joint center of CSIC and the University of Cantabria, and co-author of the article.

The region, first observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2018, has properties indicating it may be the site of reionization, but identifying the components has been difficult.

Very dense cumulus clouds

The JWST data shows five star clusters, systems of gravitationally bound stars, each about 1 parsec (about 3.26 light years) across, the study notes.

This size indicates that the clusters very tightwhich is about three orders of magnitude larger than typical young star clusters in the local Universe.

These features suggest that these newly discovered star clusters may be precursors to the globular clusters we now see in our galaxy. Milky Way.

Globular clusters are clusters of thousands or tens of thousands of old stars gravitationally boundscattered throughout the Milky Way’s halo, and some of them are as old as the galaxy itself.

“This result is significant because we currently do not know the origin of globular clusters. The discovery of gemstones for the first time provides insight into the timeline of their formation and reveals their original physical properties,” explains Jimenez.

In addition, gems are responsible for most of the ultraviolet radiation of the galaxy where they are found, and are therefore one of the main sources reionization of the early universea decisive moment in the history of the Universe between 150 million and 1 billion years after the Big Bang.

At this stage, the first stars and galaxies began to shine, emitting radiation that ionized the existing neutral hydrogen gas, helping to form the galaxies and cosmic structures we see today.

“Finding these sources, as well as the first stars, is one of the main tasks for which the James Webb Space Telescope was built,” notes the IFCA-CSIC-UC researcher.

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