Home SCIENCE JWST now owns the top 8 spots for most distant objects | by Ethan Siegel | Starts With A Bang! | Dec, 2023

JWST now owns the top 8 spots for most distant objects | by Ethan Siegel | Starts With A Bang! | Dec, 2023


This tiny region of the JADES survey shows a mix of galaxies: some that are relatively nearby, large, highly evolved, and massive; others that are at intermediate distances and have a mix of old-and-young stars in them, and a great number of very distant or even ultra-distant galaxies that are faint, heavily reddened, and potentially from the first 5% of our cosmic history. In this one little region, the power of JWST, and the evolution of the angular scale of the Universe, is on full display. Views like this, of the Universe, were unfathomable just a few short decades ago. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

In 2022, Hubble owned the record for most distant galaxy. Today, that galaxy is down to the 9th most distant object. Thanks, JWST.

One year ago, in 2022, Hubble still held the cosmic distance record.

A section of the GOODS-N field, which contains the galaxy GN-z11, the most distant galaxy ever observed. Originally, Hubble data indicated a redshift of 11.1, a distance of 32.1 billion light-years, and an inferred age of the Universe of 407 million light-years at the time this light was emitted. With better JWST data, we know this galaxy is a little closer: at a redshift of 10.60 corresponding to an age of the Universe of 433 million years. (Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI), A. Feild (STScI), P. Oesch (Yale))

Galaxy GN-z11, discovered in 2015, was discovered in a deeply-imaged field.

Over the course of 50 days, with a total of over 2 million seconds of total observing time (the equivalent of 23 complete days), the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF) was constructed from a portion of the prior Hubble Ultra Deep Field image. Combining light from ultraviolet through visible light and out to Hubble’s near-infrared limit, the XDF represented humanity’s deepest view of the cosmos: a record that stood until it was broken by JWST. In the red box, where no galaxies are seen by Hubble, the JWST’s JADES survey revealed the most distant galaxy to date: JADES-GS-z13–0. Extrapolating beyond what we see to what we know and expect must exist, we infer a total of ~2 sextillion stars within the observable Universe. (Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team; Annotations and stitching by E. Siegel)

Its light arrived from 13.4 billion years ago: when the Universe was just 3% of its present age.

Only because the most distant galaxy spotted by Hubble, GN-z11, is located in a region where the intergalactic medium is mostly reionized, was Hubble able to reveal it to us at the present time. Other galaxies that are at this same distance but aren’t along a serendipitously greater-than-average line of sight as far as reionization goes can only be revealed at longer wavelengths, and by observatories such as JWST. At present, GN-z11 is only the 9th most distant galaxy known, with all others discovered by JWST. (Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Oesch and B. Robertson (University of California, Santa Cruz), and A. Feild (STScI))

Its bright, massive nature along an unusually transparent line-of-sight enabled Hubble to see it.

Before JWST, there were about 40 ultra-distant galaxy candidates known, primarily via Hubble’s observations. Early JWST results revealed many more ultra-distant galaxy candidates, but now a whopping 717 of them have been found in just the JADES 125 square-arcminute field-of-view. The entire night sky is more than 1 million times grander, indicating that there are at least hundreds of millions of these ultra-distant galaxies out there to find. (Credit: Kevin Hainline for the JADES Collaboration, AAS242)

No ground-based or space-based telescope ever saw farther, until JWST.

This section of the latest JWST ultra-deep field, overlapping with Hubble’s eXtreme Deep Field and Ultra-Deep Field, reveals an enormous number of objects previously invisible to Hubble, even with only ~4% of the observing time. JWST is just that good, but what these galaxies mean for cosmology is still under review. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Christina Williams (NSF’s NOIRLab), Sandro Tacchella (Cambridge), Michael Maseda (UW-Madison); Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI); Animation: E. Siegel)

JWST’s larger size, better resolution, and infrared optimization provide superior observations.

This region of space, viewed first iconically by Hubble and later by JWST, shows an animation that switches between the two. JWST reveals gaseous features, deeper galaxies, and other details that are not visible to Hubble. Although many of these galaxies are very distant, galaxies that are physically smaller, but more distant than 14.6 billion light-years away, can appear larger than their closer, smaller counterparts. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Christina Williams (NSF’s NOIRLab), Sandro Tacchella (Cambridge), Michael Maseda (UW-Madison); Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI); Animation: E. Siegel)

Today, in 2023, GN-z11 has fallen to 9th place all-time.

This incredible view of the distant Universe is revealed in spectacular detail with the second data release from the JADES Collaboration. Using data primarily from NIRCam but augmented spectroscopically by NIRSpec, stars and galaxies near and far, as well as some of the most distant cosmic objects of all, are all revealed alongside one another. (Credit: JADES Collaboration)

The JADES collaboration helped immensely.

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