The pictures are gorgeous and the distant galaxies are likely to be numerous.
Several astronomers I’ve spoken with say that the preliminary discovery, if it holds true, could have extraordinary implications for the next era of astronomy. Neither of the teams that spotted the cosmic tomato expected to find a galaxy like this so soon, in their very first observations of this kind. Astronomers haven’t even cranked up the Webb telescope as far as it can go; they’ve given it a little poke, and already distant galaxies like this one are “just falling off the tree,” Jane Rigby, a NASA astrophysicist and the Webb operations project scientist, told me. Plus, the galaxy appeared in a tiny field of view, smaller than a crater on the moon in the night sky; who knows what else Webb will find in the entire moon’s worth of sky? With each deep observation, every big rewind, the telescope will bring us closer to the Big Bang, revealing faint galaxy after galaxy.
For now, astronomers are basking in the possibility of Glassy, which, on top of being a potential record-breaker, is also far weirder than they’d imagined. Astronomers have always thought that galaxies couldn’t have gotten very big so early in the universe’s history, and would start bulking up on stars about 500 million years out from the Big Bang. But Glassy is extremely luminous, suggesting that it holds an abundance of stars, which together are 1 billion times as massive as our sun. “That would mean that star formation gets going fast,” Chris Lintott, an Oxford astronomer who studies galaxy formation and was not involved in the new research, told me.
I fully expected this to be the result of this telescope’s observations. So when John asked months back (linked below) what it would take to reconsider my YEC position, JWST observations came to mind, as I had been reading a lot of articles about the telescope. I was prepared to reconsider my position if the telescope did not show unexpected clumpiness in the “early universe.” Of course, I know we have to find more galaxies first; it could be a fluke - the first view was just pointed in the location of an anomaly.
If we do find more large galaxies, does my prediction of unexpected clumpiness count as a testable prediction? Because I’d like a win on this infernal forum.