​Why James Webb’s space photos of today say so much about then

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​Why James Webb's space photos of today say so much about then

We really enjoy the beautiful photos that space telescope James Webb takes: they are generally always shared quickly and it is also indicated that they are a nursery of the stars, or actually exploded stars. Interesting, but there is much more to be learned from those photos. For example, scientists have now discovered one of the largest galaxies we have ever known. But how is that actually possible?


This is a galaxy that is approximately 33 billion light years away from our planet. The galaxy has been crowned UNCOVER Z-13 and is considered the second largest known galaxy. It is 2,000 light years wide, versus the 100,000 light years that our galaxy is. Yes, that is smaller, but for the time in which all this started it is gigantic. Researchers register The Astrophysical Journal Letters about their find. It is one of the nicer discoveries that we have been able to make through James Webb: it is exactly what the space telescope was shot into the sky for Christmas two years ago: to capture the furthest, first, oldest galaxies on the sensitive plate.

Ultimately, James Webb must help scientists answer age-old questions, such as that one existential question: how did Earth come into being? And perhaps even: how did life on earth originate? There are many theories about it, but there is not much hard evidence yet. These distant galaxies are needed to discover how they were formed, because that could be telling about how our planetary system came into being. James Webb has been helping with that so far. We actually only knew of three galaxies that were that far away, but thanks to Webb, two more were added.

james webb

James Webb Space Telescope

The reason space is actually one big treasure trove of information about how it all started is because light takes so long to travel. The light from the galaxies now seen took billions of years to reach the telescope. As a result, Webb can now see them as they looked 330 million years after the Big Bang. And that was a long time ago: a very long time ago. 13.4 billion years (!). Now they are even wider, because the universe is constantly getting bigger and bigger, because everything is moving towards ‘the sides’.

The two galaxies found are found in Pandora’s Cluster. A place where gravity works like a kind of magnifying glass and makes the light extra strong, allowing us to see better again. And it is now up to scientists to put their magnifying glass on that magnifying glass in space. We don’t know what is happening there at the moment, there in Pandora’s Cluster: we only know what happened once, and it will soon be a puzzle to see how we can apply that to our own planet.

There will probably be more of these kinds of discoveries from James Webb, but you can imagine that researchers are already very happy with these two new galaxies. In any case, in percentage terms it is a significant increase in the number of distant galaxies that we know. But, more importantly: little by little, they bring us closer to the answer to that one important question: how did the Earth come into existence?

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