James Webb telescope captures ‘knot’ of galaxies in the early universe

The James Webb Space Telescope has produced its second revealing image in as many days. Scientists using the observatory have discovered a densely packed “knot” of at least three galaxies that formed around a quasar 11.5 billion years ago, just over 2 billion years after the Big Bang. The telescope’s near-infrared spectrograph showed not only that the galaxies orbit each other at high speeds (up to 700 kilometers per second), but that this is one of the densest known regions of early galaxy formation. The density is unusually high enough that lead researcher Dominika Wylezalek suspected there might even be two dark matter ‘halos’ merging in this region.

The quasar itself is unusual. The less elegantly named SDSS J165202.64+172852.3 is a very red specimen that does not emit as much light as already rare “normal” quasars. These objects serve as active galactic cores and are powered by the gas rushing into a supermassive black hole at the core of their galaxies.

The images also underscore the strength of the Webb telescope’s sensors. Previous studies with the Hubble and Gemini-North telescopes spotted the quasar’s outflow, but revealed little more than a host galaxy.

Further studies are needed to determine how galaxy clusters like this one take shape and are influenced by supermassive black holes. However, the Webb results already promise to improve humanity’s understanding of how today’s galaxy web formed, not to mention how quasars could stifle star formation with their streams.

This is also just the beginning of Webb-based quasar discoveries. The team noted that Hubble data suggests there may be more galaxies swirling around the quasar. This is also the first in a trilogy of studies using Webb to analyze quasars at several points in the history of the Universe. These efforts could shed much more light on cosmic evolution in the years to come.

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https://www.engadget.com/james-webb-space-telescope-galaxy-cluster-early-universe-165352781.html?src=rss James Webb telescope captures ‘knot’ of galaxies in the early universe

Russell Falcon

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