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James Webb Space Telescope

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Has Webb spotted the first stars?

Dense globular clusters in Webb’s First Deep Field image may contain the universe’s oldest and first stars

If you have never looked at the First Deep Field image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, you need to.

James webb space telescope's first deep field

Within the beautifully detailed image, you can see crowds of some of the universe’s earliest galaxies, sparkling like jewels through the vast expanse of space and time.

Looking deeper into the image, a Canadian research team has discovered the most distant globular clusters ever identified, which may contain the first and oldest stars in the universe. Finding these is a task for which Webb was specifically

“Webb was built to find the first stars and the first galaxies and to help us understand the origins of complexity in the universe, such as the chemical elements and the building blocks of life,” says Lamiya Mowla, Dunlap Fellow at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and co-lead author of the study.

An image of a globular cluster

The researchers focussed on the Sparkler galaxy, known for the small yellow-red dot ‘sparkles’ of star clusters surrounding it. Five of the 12 ‘sparkles’ analysed turned out to be globular clusters, which are typically found in the bulge and the halo around galaxies and contain many old and red stars. Because they are so tightly-packed, these clusters are typically very stable and last for billions of years.

The find was made by the aptly named CANUCS: Canadian NIRISS Unbiased Cluster Survey.

The globular clusters were identified by the CANUCS team due to the lack of oxygen lines in the NIRISS (Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) data.

The presence of oxygen is important. If detected, it would suggest the clusters were much younger and actively engaged in star formation.



Edited by CaaC (John)
Spacing correction
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