James Webb captures complex organic molecules 12 billion light-years away

Constellation observed by James Webb He was born when the universe was only 10% of its current age.

Researchers have found Organic molecules Complex in a galaxy more than 12 billion light-years from Earth, these molecules are the most distant galaxy currently known to exist.

Thanks to the capabilities of the space telescope James Webb (JWST) recently published and carefully analyzed by the research team, a new study provides important insight into the complex chemical interactions occurring in the early galaxies of the early universe.

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What molecules are they?

Joaquin Vieira, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and graduate student Kedar Bhatke, along with Texas A&M University researchers and an international team of scientists, distinguished the infrared signals produced by massive and very massive dust grains. Interstellar and newly observed hydrocarbon molecules.

The results of the study are published in the journal Nature.

“The project started when I was in graduate school, and galaxies obscured by dust are difficult to detect,” Vieira said in a statement. “Dust grains absorb and re-emit about half of the stellar radiation produced in the Universe, leaving infrared light from distant objects too weak or detectable with ground-based telescopes.”

In a new study, the James Webb It’s inspired by what researchers call “nature’s magnifying glass,” a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. “This magnification occurs when two galaxies are almost perfectly aligned from Earth’s point of view, and the background galaxy’s light is bent and magnified by a ring-shaped foreground galaxy known as an Einstein ring.” Scallop said.

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The team focused on JWST SPT0418-47An object discovered using the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope was previously identified as a dust-unseen galaxy magnified by a factor of about 30 to 35 through gravitational lensing. SPT0418-47 It’s 12 billion light-years from Earth, which corresponds to when the universe was less than 1.5 billion years old, or about 10% of its current age, the researchers said.

“Earlier we used gravitational lensing and the James Webb, “We cannot see or spatially resolve the true background galaxy through all the dust,” Vieira said.

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Remnants of stars

Spectroscopic data of James Webb Interstellar gas is said to be hidden SPT0418-47 It is enriched with heavy elements, indicating that generations of stars have already lived and died. The specific compound the researchers found is a type of molecule called a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, or PAH.

On Earth, these molecules are found in exhaust gases produced by combustion engines or forest fires. Composed of carbon chains, these organic molecules are thought to be the building blocks of early life, the researchers said.

“We didn’t expect this,” Viera said. “Detecting these complex organic molecules at such a distance is a game changer for future observations. This work is only the first step, and now we are learning how to use it and its capabilities. We are very excited to see how it plays out.” This”. (Europe Press)

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