Astronomers said Thursday that Nasa’s James Webb space telescope found two very old bright, early galaxies that until now have been hidden from view. It’s believed one of them may formed 350m years after the big bang. The galaxies are seen on the outskirts of Abell 2744, a giant galaxy cluster about 3.5 billion light-years away, in the constellation Sculptor. According to a Space Telescope Science Institute release, the two ancient galaxies are minuscule compared to our own, clocking in at just a few percent of the Milky Way’s size. “This is a very dynamic time,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Tommaso Treu of the University of California, Los Angeles, a chief scientist for Webb’s early release science program, said the evidence presented so far “is as solid as it gets.” In fact, the $10bn Webb observatory, the largest and most powerful telescope ever sent into space , “will prove highly successful in pushing the cosmic frontier all the way to the brink of the big bang”, as it was the initial hope.
It is in a solar orbit 1m miles (1.6m km) from Earth. The universe is about 13.8 billion years old, and the first stars didn’t appear for several hundred million years. “We discovered there are many more distant galaxies than we had been expecting,” Tommaso Treu, principal investigator for the GLASS-JWST Early Release Science Program and a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles said. Galaxies this distant are composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. It has taken hundreds of millions of years to develop the elements that exist today.