The James Webb telescope has just started and is already setting records: it has photographed what is believed to be the oldest known galaxy. A few million years after the Big Bang and long before our solar system, a galaxy is said to have formed, as recorded by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It is said to be the oldest star system discovered to date.
GLASS-z13 is the name of the galaxy whose light traveled to us about 13.4 billion years ago. It is said to have originated around 300 million years after the Big Bang, i.e. in the early days of the universe. Because of the extent of the same, it is now 33 billion light years away from us.
It was discovered by an international team in the first data that the JWST radioed to Earth - the space telescope has only been in use for a short time. The team describes the discovery of GLASS-z13 and the somewhat more recent GLASS-z11 in an essay that is available as a preprint on the document server Arxiv.
Thomas Zurbuchen, Director of Science at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), tweeted that he usually only rejoices when scientific results have been confirmed by a peer review: "But that looks very promising!"
Because of the distance and expansion of the universe, light is shifted into the infrared spectrum. The JWST is designed to capture the red portion of visible light to the mid-infrared range. This is the area into which light is shifted from distant and therefore also early parts of the universe.
The data in which the two galaxies were found belong to the so-called "early release" data of the instrument NIRCam. This is the main infrared camera of the JWST. NASA published the first official data last week.
The first data from the new telescope give the scientific community hope for new insights into the early days of the universe. "Astronomy records are already falling," wrote NASA Science Director Zurbuchen, "and others are shaking."