A Web researcher reveals a study of the early universe


One day James Webb Space Telescope launches scientific operations this summer, it will be the world’s most powerful space telescope and it will open new avenues for astronomical research. One of the researchers who will work with James Webb, Massimo Stevelli, head of Webb’s mission office at the Space Telescope Science Institute, shared more information on how Webb will look back in time to some of the earliest stars and galaxies.

Because light takes time to travel, the farther from Earth we look, the sooner we see the evolution of the universe. The Web will be able to see more distant galaxies than ever before, allowing researchers to get an idea of ​​the early stages of the universe. By looking at the composition of these very early stars and galaxies, researchers can get an idea of ​​what happened minutes after the Big Bang.

“The chemical composition of the early universe, immediately after the Big Bang, is the product of nuclear processes that took place in the first minutes of the universe,” said Steveli at NASA. blog post. “These processes are known as ‘primary nucleosynthesis.’ One of the predictions of this model is that the chemical composition of the early universe consists mainly of hydrogen and helium. There were only traces of heavier elements that formed later in the stars. These predictions are consistent with observations and are in fact one of the key pieces of evidence supporting the hot explosion model. ”

The web will look for examples of these very old stars to see if they support modern theories about the Big Bang. “The earliest stars were formed from material with such an original composition,” said Stevia. The finding of these stars, commonly referred to as “first stars” or “population III stars,” is an important test of our cosmological model, and it is within reach of the James Webb Space Telescope. The Web may not be able to detect individual stars from the beginning of the universe, but it may detect some of the first galaxies to contain these stars. ”

Steveli’s project is to look at one of the most distant galaxies discovered to date, called MACS1149-JD1, using Webb. The team measures which part of the galaxy is made up of heavier elements using an instrument called a spectrograph so they can confirm whether it is made up of these very early stars. The project will be part of the first year of Webb’s research operations.

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A Web researcher reveals a study of the early universe

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