Tuesday, August 9, 2022

JWST is carrying data for the first of six Carnegie-led projects to reveal the chemistry of ancient galaxies

Pasadena, CA- The first of six projects, led by Carnegie-affiliated astronomers, will, over the next three days, use the James Webb Space Telescope to make some of the most accurate measurements ever taken of the chemistry of very early galaxies—the 10 billion journey. Years to reach us who study the light.

Carnegie’s Gwen Rudy and Allison Strom, formerly a Carnegie-Princeton postdoctoral fellow who is now a Northwestern professor, are leading the CECILIA project, a carefully selected group of ancient galaxies to understand and chart their compositions Will take very accurate measurements from the set. The remarkable growth that they experienced in the youth of the universe.

“We think these early galaxies have very different chemistry from our own Milky Way and the galaxies around today. And with Cecilia, we’ll be able to figure out how different they really are,” Rudy said. Explained.

Their project was named in honor of Cecilia Payne-Gaposkin, who did pioneering work on the chemistry of our Sun nearly 100 years ago. His findings increased the scientific community’s understanding of the Sun’s structure, and he faced years of undue criticism before his breakthrough work was finally recognized.

Responding to the first public release of JWST data, Rudy said, “Early images show us that our project will almost certainly surprise us. We are excited about the start of a new era in astronomy.”

More Carnegie-led JWST Projects:

CECILIA is one of six JWST projects in the first round with leading scientists affiliated with Carnegie. They will use the space telescope’s extraordinary capabilities to collect data by the end of 2023.

Drew Newman may be pointing to an ancient galaxy about 10 billion light-years away from us to understand why some galaxies stopped forming stars long ago, even though the universe was a very active place at the time. And most galaxies—such as those studied by Rudy and Strom—were just bursting with star formation.

Their designated time won’t be until November or December of next year, but the wait isn’t dampening their excitement about the realization of JWST’s tremendous promise to reveal our universe in never-before-seen detail.

“This telescope is an absolutely incredible achievement,” he said. “JWST’s first deep images and spectra already provide surprises, they are just an indication of how much we will learn about the birth and evolution of galaxies.”

Johanna Teske’s first JWST observations are initially scheduled for next February, although they will also be included throughout the summer and into the fall.

“In the meantime,” she said, “we can get all the data coming in, and learn from our expert colleagues, and get ready to hit the ground running.”

The project his team is working on aims to better understand the most common type of planet in our galaxy – called a super-Earth or sub-Neptune – that is mysteriously not found in our own solar system. go.

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JWST will allow Teske and his colleagues to find out how diverse these planets’ atmospheric makeup is, as well as the phenomena governing this composition—information that can reveal whether these types of planets have favorable conditions. Life

“We hope that our observations will advance the telescope and the equipment we use to their limits,” Teske said. “The first results we’ve seen indicate that they are behaving at least as expected and, in many ways, much better. This means we’ll likely uncover even more about minor planets, As we initially speculated – such as whether they have atmospheres that formed through their exit from their interiors, or are they so called ‘water worlds’.

Peter Gao will also deploy JWST to probe exoplanet atmospheres. Next May he will use the revolutionary space telescope to improve our knowledge of a rare type of ultra-low density—think cotton candy—planets that have a mass only a few times that of Earth, but in size The solar system is similar in size to the giant planets. Gao hopes that the JWST will enable him to reveal the underlying explanation for the unusual density of this mysterious planetary class.

“It’s interesting to think about how different my understanding of exoplanets will be between now and next May and looking back at the original models I created for this planet,” Gao said.

As a theorist, Gao made advanced predictions about how JWST observations would appear, including generating synthetic observations. Now, he says, the onus is on theorists to explain what the telescope data shows.

“The unknown is suddenly so close to the knowable, and questions we haven’t even thought about are about to emerge. It really feels like my career has just begun,” he said.

In contrast, JWST has been a part of Alan Dressler’s career for more than 25 years. In the mid-1990s, he chaired the committee that pioneered the concept of the space telescope. Now, he is part of the instrument team for JWST’s Near Infrared Camera and will use deep-field images to analyze the star-formation history of galaxies from the first hundred million years of the universe.

“NIRCam will help us understand how galaxies form through gravity from gas clouds to form stars, and how these aggregate into larger structures,” he explained. “My focus will be to see if these baby galaxies have an ‘explosion’, not a continuous rise or fall, the rate of star formation, the behavior we expect to be very different as galaxies mature.”

Dressler was invited by the Space Telescope Science Institute to unveil the first images and describes the astonishment of the astronomers in the room at the time.

“I was blown away by the richness of information,” he said. “It’s one thing to imagine what such data is going to be like when you take a big step like building the JWST, but somehow, you’re never quite prepared for where the next journey toward the horizon will go.” I wouldn’t have said that before, but now I believe that JWST will be as big a step as the Hubble Space Telescope for our region. We are ready for a great adventure.”

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Other JWST projects include one from Maria Drout, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and a visiting scientist at Carnegie Observatories, who will trace the origins of the heaviest elements in the periodic table, and one from Barry Madour, who hopes to have a space telescope. Enable him and Wendy Friedman, director of ex-observatories, to refine our measurements of the rate of expansion of the universe, called the Hubble constant. Jeff Rich of the observatories is also a member of a research team that will use JWST to study galaxy collisions and measure how these violent events can cause rapid bursts of star formation and evolution of supermassive black holes at their centers.

What about ground-based telescopes?

Excitement over the capabilities of JWST has rippled through the astronomy community. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of the next generation of ground-based telescopes, including the Giant Magellan Telescope, currently under construction at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, for driving future discoveries.

“These large ground-based telescopes will be super complementary to things like James Webb,” explained John Mulchey, director of observatories and deputy for Carnegie Science.

The optical capabilities of GMT—compared to the infrared instruments deployed aboard JWST—will enhance astronomers’ ability to detect biosignatures such as oxygen in exoplanet atmospheres. Similarly, differences in mirror sizes between space-based and ground-based telescopes will enable astronomers to use GMT to characterize the first stars and galaxies discovered by JWST in much greater detail.

“It’s going to be a super exciting combination,” Mulche said.

naming concerns

Despite the collective thrill astronomers are experiencing as the first JWST images and data roll in, some experts continue to pressure NASA to rename the telescope in the wake of allegations that the agency’s chief administrator during the race to the Moon , Webb contributed to discriminatory policies of LGBTQ employees that resulted in individuals being fired for their sexual orientation.

Teske and Gao have been publicly vocal about the legacy of the telescope’s name and their disappointment with NASA’s decision not to reconsider their decision.

Teske said, “Looking at the first images and spectra from JWST, I feel a deep awe and jumpy excitement, as well as immense gratitude to the many people who have contributed to advances in technology and science.” “Yet, unfortunately, my positive feelings are overshadowed by despair and anger that the name of this telescope does not represent an inclusive, open future for astronomy.”

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