The latest discovery by the James Webb Telescope could open the door to learning more about the early universe.
Recently, the telescope sent back images of Pandora’s Cluster, a megacluster of three galaxies merging together. That cluster is causing a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing that allows us to look deeper into space.
Ray Rawlyk is a teacher at Central Collegiate with a passion for Cosmology, or the study of the structure of the universe. He explained how gravitational lensing works.
“If there is an object or a galaxy way, way far away in the early universe, the light from that, if it passes through something that has a humongous gravitational mass, then we're able to see sort of slivers of that faraway object,” he said.
Rawlyk explained that scientists can then take those slivers and put them together to see what those faraway objects might look like. Some of the light seen through gravitational lensing dates back to 380,000 years after the Big Bang.
This latest discovery by the James Webb Telescope is another piece in learning how the universe was created.
“By looking back in time and seeing a more definite formation of what they are, a visual cue, then it just helps us to understand the early universe and where we came from. It really is a search for who we are,” Rawlyk said.
Launched in 2021, the James Webb Telescope is about 100 times stronger than the Hubble Telescope plus it has infrared imaging. The infrared means the James Webb Telescope can peer through and see objects amidst or behind nebulas and dust.
“We are just testing the waters of what this James Webb can do and, like the Hubble, we will be learning more and more about the universe with it,” Rawylyk explained.
Rawylyk said the Hubble Telescope could view images using gravitational lensing “but it was almost like blobs and we couldn’t really define what they were” whereas NASA is now getting more defined images with the James Webb Telescope.
The next step for NASA scientists will now be to go through the images and decide which galaxies are worth studying further to find details such as distance measurements and composition details.