Basque science, at the forefront of the discoveries of the James Webb telescope | Science and technology

Galaxies forming in the early universe.
Galaxies forming in the early universe. (JAR)

A scientific group in which the astrophysicist Tom Broadhurst, professor of Ikerbasque at the UPV/EHU and associated with the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC), was the first – with another international team – to analyze the oldest image of universe detected by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWSP).

Broadhurst was the recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Achievement Award for the Hubble Telescope’s “Advanced Camera” mission. With more than 20 years of research experience in countries such as Great Britain, the United States, Germany, Israel, Japan and Taiwan, he joins Basque science.

Astrophysicist Tom Broadhurst. (Ikerbasque)

With his collaborators, this scientist has worked tirelessly since July 11, the day the President of the United States Joe Biden publicly published in full resolution the already world-famous image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723.

Over three days of intense work, the team of scientists analyzed the background galaxies in the image that appear to repeat themselves due to gravitational lensing – a phenomenon caused by supermassive bodies that cause the background light allowing astronomers to naturally observe distant regions. In their study, they detected a total of 16 repeating galaxies which allowed them to reconstruct SMACS 0723 and calculate the dark matter zones.

These early results suggest the cluster is more elongated than predicted by previous studies with other telescopes, likely due to mergers with large galaxy clusters.

The Institute of Physics of Cantabria (UC-CSIC) also participated in the work with a research team from several countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Malta and Israel.

A new era for astronomy

The recently opened The James Webb Space Telescope, launched last December, opens a new era in astronomical observation. Its infrared range and ability to detect light two orders of magnitude weaker than the Hubble Space Telescope will allow it to capture images of unprecedented depth and bring us ever closer to the dawn of the universe.

Expectations placed on James Webb are high. It is hoped to study when the first clusters – filaments, galaxies and stars of hydrogen and helium – formed, and continue to advance in the deep field to arrive at the moment when matter began to collapse for the first time due to gravity. All of this will contribute exceptionally to how the chemistry of the original universe was designed and how it evolved.

In the coming months, Broadhurst and his UPV/EHU and DIPC colleague, Nobel laureate George Smoot, plan to find out if the dark matter detected in these new data is made up of waves or particles, a big question. opened with profoundly different aspects. implications for the origin of galaxies, stars and life.

In the Basque scientific community, several researchers in the field of astrophysics and cosmology will now work directly or indirectly with the data produced by the James Webb Space Telescope. The list includes Mariam Bouhmadi López (Ikerbasque at UPV/EHU), Silvia Bonoli (Ikerbasque at DIPC) and Nate Bastian (Ikerbasque at DIPC).

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