back to article Light from a long time ago reaches James Webb Space Telescope

Formed between 500 and 700 million years after the Big Bang, objects at the extreme limits of human observation have showed up on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), designed to uncover the early life of the 13.8 billion-year-old universe. The observations are part of the first release of data from NASA's $10 billion space …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    but 30 times more compact

    Hmm, with stars just a few tenths of light years away, the radiation wouldn't have been healthy but the night skies would have been amazing!

    1. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: but 30 times more compact

      It's night-time, Jim, but not as we know it.

  2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    New improved astronomy

    Now on Catch-Up.

  3. Elongated Muskrat

    I wonder if any of these are "black hole stars"

    I can't remember where it is I saw it, but there was a video describing the possibility of early stars being so massive that their interiors contained massive black holes, and their mass was great enough to stop the stars being blown apart by their formation. A possible explanation for the existence of supermassive black holes, which IIRC is problematic due to the masses involved and the times taken to accrete them under other theories of formation.

    Edit - one of these bad boys.

  4. Frogmelon

    Maybe time doesn't progress at a linear rate and time itself progressed faster nearer to the dawn of the universe? We'd see this as things happening "earlier than they should have done".

    Perhaps the galaxies took the normal amount of time to form but just look like they formed "too early" due to time at that point running at an accelerated rate? The heartbeat of the universe starting off fast when the universe is more compact, then slowing down as spacetime expands? Maybe the pressure or surface tension of the same amount of planck units existing in a smaller volume of infinite spacetime?

    So as spacetime expands and stretches at a faster and faster rate, time is effectively stretched out and "slowing down" now compared to billions of year ago? We wouldn't notice - time would seem to be running the same as it ever did in our present - but it'll be a constant changing throughout the life of the universe?

    I expect to be shot down in flames as there's probably lots of evidence to disprove this, but I thought it was a nice idea. :)

    TLDR: Maybe what we see as X amount of years years back then is compressed from our perspective.

    1. Elongated Muskrat

      I think this would be observable as a change in the speed of light over time, which I believe has been measured to sufficient accuracy and over a long enough period of time to make any such effect either noticeable or extremely small. I think such a change would also interfere with the magnitude of red-shifts over time and would provide a measurable effect.

    2. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      I played will this kind of thing a couple of years back as a thought experiment, the motivation there was an explanation for dark energy beginning with a playful notion that the expansion of space causes a kind of "dilution" of the amount of time in it.

      Problem is it's impossible to analyse in anything other than the most superficial terms. When you talk of rates or speeds you automatically reference time. When you talk of time dilation effects due to relativity you are doing so with a frame of reference, either one part of the system or an "external" observer.

      When you talk of the speed of time changing across the entire universe you reference it against what, exactly? Does the question even make sense on a conceptual level?

    3. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      First Hubble, now James Webb, each time we gain the ability to see deeper into the past, the more mind-blowing what we see becomes.

      But data like this makes me think maybe we're not seeing a bigger and bigger universe, but the same one again and again. Spacetime topology doesn't have to be a flat sheet; it could equally be a sphere or a torus. A straight line in one of those geodesics can pass through near neighbourhoods repeatedly, seeing it at different times in its history.

  5. TVU Silver badge

    "We expected only to find tiny, young, baby galaxies at this point in time, but we've discovered galaxies as mature as our own in what was previously understood to be the dawn of the universe."

    As with the fourth neutrino issue, the thing to do is abandon any hopes/preconceptions, go with the actual evidence and then formulate a new development theory that fits the confirmed evidence that has been directly observed.

  6. Richard 12 Silver badge

    That's funny...

    Possibly the most exciting statement by scientists.

    Perhaps these observations will produce a true theory of everything. Shame Hawking didn't live to see this.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: That's funny...

      I do wonder sometimes about the hunt for quantum gravity. Electric charges are quantum, electromagnetic fields are continuous. Mass comes in quanta, gravity* is continuous. Shouldn't we be looking for quantum mass theory to unify everything?

      *is the dark energy field orthogonal to gravity.

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: That's funny...

      Nope. In terms of what we know about the universe, as termed as the life of a person, we're still sitting in the ball sack waiting on Dad to stroke up enough for the shot. We won't take the ride into Mom until we can at least leave the solar system. We're just looking and guessing right now, with no way of telling if our guesses are right or not.

      I've said it before and I'll say it again, time to put a stop to spending money on telescopes. We should be putting that money into developing spaceflight, including FTL spaceflight. It's not that I don't find this stuff facinating, but we need to get out there and see this stuff first-hand. And I'm really hoping the future is more like Star Trek and not one of the more dystopian futures.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Light the blue touch paper and retire quickly …

    Everything seems to be looking for stuff on edge as it is assumed to be the oldest and gives us clues to the beginnings.

    But where are we in all of that ? Some edges must be further away than others as we are presumably not in the centre (despite religious theories).

    So what about the centre where it presumably all started - what’s there - or has it all been flung out ? Where is the cosmological Arne Saknussemm ?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Light the blue touch paper and retire quickly …

      The centre is everywhere, as everything came out of the big bang singularity.

      Draw some dots on a balloon, then blow it up. Which dot is the centre? All the dots see all the other dots move away.

      What Webb is doing is looking as far away as possible, the collect light that's been travelling for as long as possible without hitting anything else.

      1. Spherical Cow

        Re: Light the blue touch paper and retire quickly …

        Where did the Big Bang happen? Right here! And over there, and over there too, everywhere in fact. Everything & everywhere started at the same single point.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: Light the blue touch paper and retire quickly … Missed Opportunity

          Everything Everywhere All at Once

          FTFY - Have a beer.

    2. Oh Matron!

      Re: Light the blue touch paper and retire quickly …

      There's no edge just as much as there's no centre. If you can get your head around that, which many people can't....

    3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: Light the blue touch paper and retire quickly …

      But we are in the center - for as far as we can see. The only way to rightfully say we aren't in the center of the universe is when we can see the edge of the universe in one direction but not the other.

      We do know we're not the center of the Milky Way galaxy though, but are in the Orion arm. Highly unlikely we're the center of anything.

      Speaking of the Milky Way, whose bright idea was it to name the galaxy after a candy bar?

  8. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    How can they tell the size of one of those specks of light?

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      I'm pretty certain that "large" means "having a mass in a certain range". Mass can be inferred most directly from gravitational effects, I believe.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        There's also the spectra matching known star types, indicating that it must be a "similar" mass to those stars.

  9. ecofeco Silver badge

    A long time ago... a galaxy far, far away...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think about this stuff for just 3 minutes

    It puts human endeavour and conflict into perspective.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Think about this stuff for just 3 minutes

      Quite true...

      And to think that some jumped little turds (throughout history) have sought to make themselves "infamous" by their aggressive and inhumane activities against fellow men (& women/children etc) and yet they are alive doing this for so short a time (relatively, compered to the billions of years that the Universe has been in existence) and by their actions they cause so much suffering and grief and for what - a few paragraphs on wikipedia and some words printed on paper?

      We as humans still have so much to learn about being respectful and peace loving to all.

  11. Oh Matron!

    Massive but not as dense

    Was literally listening to this on the World Service's Science Hour:

    Back then, only Helium and Hydrogen existed (with maybe a touch of lithium), which allowed stars to be much bigger, but not as dense, as no other elements existed

    Big stars burn quicker, thought, which resulted in more death of stars into supernova / black holes, which is where elements up to and including iron were formed.

    And it's only when black holes collided that everything else was created

    I find this stuff truly fascinating......

  12. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    I always viewed the Milky Way as being juvenile

    I missed the part where NASA talked about how this will help them to find extraterrestrial life on other planets (so far they've only come up with extra terrestrial life).

    Is there any practical use for this discovery? There's a traffic problem in the street outside my house. Can this newly found knowledge be applied to this problem at all?

  13. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "These objects are way more massive than anyone expected,"

    So, with no idea of what I'm talking about, how much extra mass are we seeing here? How much "missing mass" is there in the theories such that we postulated "dark matter" to account for it? Does this mean we now have less "missing mass"? Might we eventually dismiss "dark matter" as a silly invention of primitive scientists to account for stuff we don't understand in the same way as "the aether" and phlogiston? Also, if there's significantly more matter than we thought, how does that affect our understanding of dark energy?

    Am I not only barking up not just the wrong tree but am in an entirely different forest?

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