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JWST Watches the Most Distant Galactic Merger Ever observed

Astronomers are well aware that galaxies form through mergers. Galactic mergershave been occurring since the earliest epochs of cosmic time. Using the Webb telescope (JWST) astronomers discovered a colossal merger of young galaxies going on abouthalf a million years post the Big Bang. It’s called Gz9p3, one of the initial and most distant mergers ever observed.

The formation of Gz9p3 involves some incredibly gigantic galactic components, according to Kit Boyett(astronomer from the University of Melbourne in Australia). “When we conducted these observations, this galaxy was ten times more massive than any other galaxy found that early in the Universe,” Kit said.

JWST spectroscopic observations of the initial Universe have unraveled the presence of galaxies existing merely 300 million years post the Big Bang. The fact that it’s now witnessing them merging only a couple of hundred million years later—as Gz9p3 is doing—suggests that the stars in those galaxies were formed and evolved much faster than astrophysicists expected. That, in turn, puts an entirely new spin on events occurred in the earliest epochs of time.

Details of Galactic Mergers

The observations made by Kit and members of his team show Gz9p3 divided into merging groups. One group has two “pieces”; it possesses a lengthy tail of material stretching out as if it had been dragged away. That means at least two galaxies are combining together to create the larger one, according to Kit. “The merger hasn’t finished yet,” he said. “We can tell this by the fact we still see two components. The long tail is likely produced by some of the matter being cast aside during the merger. When two things merge, they sort of throw away some of the matter. So, this tells us that there’s a merger and this is the most distant merger ever seen.”

Thanks to JWST’s commanding capability to look that far back in time, astrophysicists are rapidly altering their models of the early Universe. That’s because JWST can “see” the light from those early substances stretched into the infrared spectrum. And, what it sees are galaxies that have grown very massive very fast by virtue of mergers. “With JWST we are seeing more objects in the early cosmos than we expect to see, and those objects are more massive than we thought as well,” said Kit. “Our cosmology isn’t necessarily wrong, but our understanding of how quickly galaxies formed probably is, because they are more massive than we ever believed could be possible.”

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