Galaxies in early universe were surprisingly diverse, James Webb Space Telescope finds

This image — a mosaic of 690 individual frames taken with the Near Infrared Camera on the James Webb Space Telescope — covers an area of sky about eight times as large as Webb’s First Deep Field Image released on July 12, 2022. It’s from a patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper. This is one of the first images obtained by the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey collaboration. It contains several examples of high-redshift galaxies with various morphologies. 
This image — a mosaic of 690 individual frames taken with the Near Infrared Camera on the James Webb Space Telescope — covers an area of sky about eight times as large as Webb’s First Deep Field Image released on July 12, 2022. It’s from a patch of sky near the handle of the Big Dipper. This is one of the first images obtained by the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey collaboration. It contains several examples of high-redshift galaxies with various morphologies.  (Image credit: NASA/STScI/CEERS/TACC/S. Finkelstein/M. Bagley/Z. Levay; Cutout images: NASA/STScI/CEERS/TACC/S. Finkelstein/M. Bagley/J. Kartaltepe)

The James Webb Space Telescope is changing our understanding of the cosmos.

Galaxies in the early days of the universe were much more varied and mature than previously thought, according to a new study of observations of hundreds of galaxies by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey has been using JWST to look far back in time, studying galaxies as they were around 11 to 13 billion years ago. 

Related: James Webb Space Telescope's best images of all time (gallery)

The images of faint, highly redshifted galaxies returned by JWST are much sharper than similar photos captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. These new images have revealed the presence of mature features such as disks and spheroidal components, Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an associate professor in the Rochester Institute of Technology's School of Physics and Astronomy, said in a statement (opens in new tab).

"This means that, even at these high redshifts, galaxies were already fairly evolved and had a wide range of structures," said Kartaltepe, lead author of the new paper and a CEERS co-investigator.

These early galaxies were therefore much more like the galaxies of the present than previously known.

"This tells us that we don't yet know when the earliest galaxy structures formed," said Kartaltepe. "We're not yet seeing the very first galaxies with disks. We'll have to examine a lot more galaxies at even higher redshifts to really quantify at what point in time features like disks were able to form."

The results of the study, which used an early JWST data set from June last year, have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and posted on the online preprint site ArXiv (opens in new tab)

Since then, the CEERS survey has racked up another 60 observing hours with JWST, meaning there may be many thousands of high redshift galaxies to further explore and advance our understanding of how the early universe evolved.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI (opens in new tab).

  • JesseLeSerrurier
    May it not be just possible that the diverse aggregation of galaxies so far observed in the epoch of 11 to 13 billion light-yea rs may suggest ( just a suggestion ! ) that the concept of the 'Big Bang' theory that scientists and philosophers have been operating under for the last, what century (?), may ( and I repeat, just may ) need to be reexamined and modified with the possibility in mind that our 'universe' may be only a part of a larger, and more complex, universe ( or verses ) ? ? ?
    Reply
  • Classical Motion
    So we have 3 inconsistencies. Too many galaxies are there. The variety is too great. And they are too old.

    This will require a big patch. And some kind of change to the narrative of evolution of what we see.
    Reply
  • Classical Motion
    We might be in for some larger surprises. Hopefully in the near future, we might be able to detect a lot more light than we can now. With these new quantum sensors and detectors. There might be much more out there just too faint to see.
    Reply
  • 150 generation
    Galaxies are well developed at great distances.

    The ratio of spiral and elliptical galaxies at great distances is the same as we observe close up. (Spiral are supposed to evolve from elliptical).

    Elements that weren’t predicted to have evolved yet at great distances are soon to be found I’m sure. Looking forward to that one.

    I’m kinda thinking a bigger telescope isn’t gonna solve these issues for the big bang model.
    Reply
  • Classical Motion
    Maybe the universe is much much larger than we imagine. And more rarefied than imagined. And the only way to see that density, is at a great distance. Does that make any sense?
    Reply
  • 150 generation
    Yes it makes sense. Maybe the universe is much larger than imagined. Maybe it isn’t dense anywhere in the great, great distance and the Big Bang model is wrong. This one is like chasing a rainbow.
    Reply
  • rod
    A variety of recent reports about JWST galaxies observed are now out. Here is an example for some.

    https://phys.org/news/2023-01-astronomers-galaxies-early-universe-previously.html
    https://phys.org/news/2023-01-james-webb-telescope-reveals-milky.html
    https://forums.space.com/threads/james-webb-space-telescope-spots-rare-red-spiral-galaxies-in-the-early-universe.59187/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/confirmed-james-webb-space-telescope-has-bagged-the-oldest-known-galaxies.59123/
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/astronomers-grapple-with-jwsts-discovery-of-early-galaxies/
    https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/webb-telescope-shatters-distance-records-challenges-astronomers/
    As studies continue using JWST, it should be very interesting to see how the BB cosmology is *tweaked* to explain the new observations. Tweaking can be good, but also a method used to avoid falsification of a model in science too.
    Reply
  • billslugg
    The duration of inflation was set to agree with the lumpiness of the universe at the earliest time we could see it. Now that we have earlier data showing more lumpiness, we must simply reduce the amount of inflation in our model. It does not falsify the model, it simply calls for a change to one of the parameters.

    We know what Planck's Constant is. We know what the Heisenberg Uncertainty is. At the instant of the Big Bang, there had to be a certain amount of lumpiness to the universe due to quantum fluctuations as predicted by Planck and Heisenberg. As the universe got bigger, the lumpiness spread out and became less. We simply tailor the amount of expansion in our model to the observed amount of lumpiness as far back as we can see.

    This is the Lambda - Cold Dark Matter model. There are other models, including the Steady State model. None of them explain the observations better than Lamda-CDM.
    Reply
  • billslugg
    From Helio on June 15, 2020:
    In the Cosmology section, "What would it take to falsify the "big bang" model of cosmology?" - Post #4.

    "I would expect any alternative theory that better fit the observations would become accepted. Here are some things the alternative theory would need to address:

    The Expansion of the Universe.
    ....> Hubble Constant (redshift)
    ....> Einstein's field equations (1916) predicted an expanding (or contracting) universe
    ....> Time Dilation of Supernova
    ....> Gamma Ray Bursts
    ....> The CMBR - Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation....…......> The wavelength (microwave)
    ......…...> The Temperature (2.73K).
    ......…...> The Blackbody Results.
    ......…...> The "smoothness" (isotropy) ...……...> The very small "roughness" (anisotropy) in this radiation.
    ......…...> The angular size of the "hot" spots matching predictions.
    ......…...> The power spectrum
    ....> Distant Cloud temperatures
    ....> The Element Abundances from Nucleosynthesis.
    ....> Helium (25%)
    ....> Deuterium, its relative abundance.
    ....> The observed Differences in Galaxies between today's and earlier ones.
    ......…..> Paucity of distant Barred Spirals.
    ......…..> Less organized distant Spirals.
    ......…..> No local Quasars.
    ....> The Age of the Universe in relation to Stellar Compositions.
    ....> Olber's Paradox resolved.
    ....> Entropy - "The universe is dying" (Helmholtz & 2nd Law).
    ....> Galactic Superstructure of Super Clusters and Galactic Strands....> No Ancient Objects older than 15 billion years.
    ....> The anisotropy found in background neutrino maping, probably.
    ....> The Lyman Forest morphology "
    Reply
  • rod
    A problem I see in post #9 and #10, we have repetition of the probability creation story using constants like the Planck constant to describe the origin of the universe and hold BB cosmology together or somehow, inflation will be modified to accomodate the new JWST observations. None of current physical law or constants used in science are explained by the probability creation story told the public, how they were created. The BB model does not explain the origin of DM or DE either.

    https://forums.space.com/threads/one-of-the-greatest-damn-mysteries-of-physics-we-studied-distant-suns-in-the-most-precise-astronomical-test-of-electromagnetism-yet.59494/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/why-time-traveling-tachyons-probably-dont-exist.59412/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/does-consciousness-explain-quantum-mechanics.59425/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/how-do-we-know-the-fundamental-constants-are-constant-we-dont.59359/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/neutrons-facts-about-the-influential-subatomic-particles.59049/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/protons-the-essential-building-blocks-of-atoms.58928/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/quarks-what-are-they.58460/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/atoms-what-are-they-and-how-do-they-build-the-elements.58433/
    https://forums.space.com/threads/what-makes-newtons-laws-work-heres-the-simple-trick.57302/
    Reply