Science

Red smudge seen by JWST could unlock chemistry of the early universe

A galaxy caught in the distant background of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first “deep field” image could help astronomers understand the chemistry of the early universe



Space



18 July 2022

This red blob is a distant galaxy in the background of James Webb’s “deep field” image

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project released its first full-colour images last week, in among the stunning starscapes was a humble-looking graphic that has nonetheless set astronomers’ hearts aflutter. The diagram shows the fingerprint-like spectrum of light from an inconspicuous red background galaxy (pictured above) in the telescope’s “deep field” image, and its undulating peaks and troughs represent an unprecedented insight into a galaxy living in the early universe.

The spectrum itself …

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