The James Webb Space Telescope recently made its debut with the “Deep Field” image, but as we are absorbed by the beautiful colors of near-infinity, scientists have used the data behind the shot to identify a very old and fascinating object in space.
Named the “Sparkler,” it’s a “globular cluster” nine billion light years away. The light as it’s reaching us is as it was just 4.5 billion years after the Big Bang, meaning just after it became possible for stars to form.
JWST’s high-resolution snapshot contains thousands of galaxies and dense groups of millions of stars, but for co-lead author Dr. Kartheik Iyer, the most interesting were ancient collections of stars from a galaxy’s infancy that can contain clues about its earliest phases of formation and growth.
“Looking at the first images from JWST and discovering old globular clusters around distant galaxies was an incredible moment, one that wasn’t possible with previous Hubble Space Telescope imaging,” said Iyer.
The Sparkler got its name for the compact objects appearing as small yellow-red dots surrounding it, referred to by the researchers as ‘sparkles,’ and which turned out to be the globular clusters.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on the unveiling of the telescope’s first images, said that the Deep Field contained very little of the galaxy, approximately as much as if one were to hold a grain of sand on the end of their finger, extend their arm and hand and measure the sand grain against the sky itself.
Incredibly though, examination of the globular clusters spotted in this tiny area of space revealed that five of the clusters were among the oldest ever recorded.
Difficult analysis would follow
“Since we could observe the sparkles across a range of wavelengths, we could model them and better understand their physical properties, like how old they are and how many stars they contain,” said Dr. Iyer.
“We hope the knowledge that globular clusters can be observed at from such great distances with JWST will spur further science and searches for similar objects.”
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