NASA built its state-of-the-art James Webb Space Telescope to peer into the distant Universe and back towards the dawn of time — and it’s already doing so spectacularly. In the two weeks since Webb’s first science images and data became available for astronomers to work with, they have reported a flood of preliminary discoveries, including multiple contenders for what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen.
Webb’s images reveal a wealth of galaxies glimmering in the distant cosmos, appearing as they did just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago. The telescope’s astonishingly sharp pictures have shattered astronomers’ preconceptions about the early Universe.
“We had in mind an idea of what galaxies at these [distances] would look like, and how much detail we’d be able to see, but I think the reality is just kind of blowing our mind,” says Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an astronomer at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. [Continue reading…]