Webb’s first deep field infrared image reveals hundreds of very early galaxies

The uncertainty of science: Using the Webb Space Telescope to take a 32-day-long infrared exposure, scientists have obtained the deepest deep field picture of the universe’s earliest time period, within which they have found more than 700 galaxies, 717 to be exact.

The initial survey of these galaxies appear to reveal several facts.

About a sixth of early galaxies in the JADES sample are in the throes of star formation of a kind we don’t see in the nearby universe, Endsley explains, marked by extremely bright emission at certain wavelengths. “Stars within very early galaxies are forming in these super-compact clumps,” he adds, “forming hundreds, perhaps thousands of these very massive, young stars all at once, basically within the span of a couple millions of years.”

But they weren’t “on” all the time. The low fraction of galaxies with such emission suggests that individual clumps would suddenly light up with new stars and then rest for some time. This “bursty” mode of star formation could explain the unexpectedly bright galaxies announced by other astronomers — they were simply looking at the galaxies fired up with unexpectedly intense star formation.

However, while these findings explain too-bright galaxies, they don’t explain the too-massive galaxies, another early, albeit controversial find from JWST data. Endsley explains that even as hot, massive newborn stars light up their galaxy, they’re not necessarily associated with all that much mass. “We’re not really finding evidence of these over-massive objects within our JADES sample,” he states.

In other words, this data appears to contradict earlier data from Webb that other researchers said revealed galaxies that were too massive and developed to have formed that soon after the Big Bang.

All of this data remains somewhat uncertain, and is based on only tiny tidbits of information, gleaned from mere smudges of red-shifted infrared light. Much more research will be required, some not possible by Webb, before we have any solid answers, and even then there is going to be a lot of uncertainty.