The Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach has unveiled an exciting new scientific visualization showcasing data from the CEERS (Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science) Survey. This captivating video takes us on a journey through the Extended Groth Strip, an area between the Ursa Major and Boötes constellations that was originally surveyed by the Hubble Space Telescope from 2004 to 2005. By leveraging the power of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the visualization offers a breathtaking glimpse into the previously unseen galaxies within this region.
The video begins by showcasing thousands of galaxies, gradually transitioning from those in close proximity to Earth to those in the farthest reaches of the universe. With a focus on approximately 5,000 galaxies, the visualization provides a tantalizing glimpse into the vast cosmic tapestry. As we journey farther from our home planet, we witness different stages in the universe’s history and witness the unfolding of its remarkable evolution.
Of particular significance is the visualization’s portrayal of Maisie’s Galaxy, the most remote galaxy featured. Nestled 13.4 billion light-years away from Earth, this celestial marvel holds great allure for astronomers. Maisie’s Galaxy originated approximately 390 million years after the big bang, making it one of the earliest and brightest distant galaxies ever discovered by the Webb telescope. Moreover, it serves as a prime example of the types of ancient galaxies that can only be observed by Webb due to its ability to capture infrared wavelengths, where the light from these early galaxies has been shifted by the universe’s expansion.
“This observatory presents us with a remarkable opportunity to delve into a previously unexplored period of time,” expressed Rebecca Larson, an investigator from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, reflecting on the impact of the Webb telescope. “Galaxies like Maisie’s were beyond our reach until now. Not only can we detect them in our images, but we can also unravel their composition and determine if they differ from nearby galaxies.”
Principal investigator of the CEERS program, Steven Finkelstein from the University of Texas at Austin, added, “The results of this observation have surpassed our expectations. The abundance of galaxies we are discovering in the early universe surpasses previous predictions.” These surveys conducted by the Webb telescope serve as invaluable references for astronomers in future observations.
The visualization not only showcases the incredible range of Webb’s observations but also highlights its synergy with the accomplishments of the Hubble Space Telescope. By combining Hubble’s observations with Webb’s CEERS data, researchers can distinguish between truly distant early-universe galaxies of interest and nearby galaxies obscured by dust, revealing a clearer picture of cosmic evolution.
With these groundbreaking observations, the next frontier for researchers is understanding the intricacies of star formation in these early galaxies. “We have long believed that galaxies evolve in a smooth and gradual manner,” Finkelstein mused. “However, it is possible that these stars are being born in explosive bursts. Are these galaxies producing more stars than anticipated? Are the stars themselves more massive than our expectations? These data provide us with the foundation to explore such questions, but further data is needed to unravel these mysteries.”