Earliest galaxy a head-scratcher for NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has beaten its own record after discovering a new placeholder for the most distant and earliest galaxy humanity has ever observed.

Elegantly called JADES-GS-z14-0, the galaxy emitted light captured by the JWST less than 300 million years after the universe-seeding Big Bang. To put it in a more relatable perspective, if the average lifespan of an American is 76 years, the new galaxy would have appeared 19 months after birth.

NASA scientists say the data shows that the galaxy is over 1,600 light-years across and its luminosity indicates the light comes from young stars and not from a star-gobbling black hole as often is the case with younger galaxies.

“This much starlight implies that the galaxy is several hundreds of millions of times the mass of the Sun! This raises the question: How can nature make such a bright, massive, and large galaxy in less than 300 million years?” say scientists.

Not only that, but light emission strongly points to the existence of oxygen in the galaxy. Since virtually all elements apart from hydrogens formed after massive stars made them, the discovery indicates the galaxy went through several generations of stars.

“All of these observations, together, tell us that JADES-GS-z14-0 is not like the types of galaxies that have been predicted by theoretical models and computer simulations to exist in the very early universe,” NASA said.

The JWST was launched in 2021 and began collecting data in 2022. It is reshaping our understanding of the early universe and beaming back awe-inspiring images of the cosmos. The orbiting observatory looks at the universe mainly in infrared.