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Starts With A Bang

Explore JWST’s deepest views ever for yourself

JWST has already broken many of Hubble’s cosmic records. Perhaps additional record-breakers already exist within this data-rich image?
NASA's JWST captures the deepest view of galaxies in the night sky.
This small portion of the JADES field-of-view showcases novel details that are only now available with the collaboration's second data release. This represents one of the deepest JWST views of the distant Universe to date, and may contain some additional cosmic record-breakers that have yet to be teased out of the full suite of data. Many small, faint galaxies will hold the key to understanding how star-formation begins and ends.
Credit: JADES Collaboration
Key Takeaways
  • If you want to observe the Universe more deeply than ever before, simply point your high-powered observatory at the same region of sky and keep on accumulating more and more data.
  • With an estimated 770 hours of science operations devoted to the narrow field of JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES), several cosmic records have already fallen with the data released to-date.
  • Now, with more data than ever before released to the public, an interactive tool allows you to explore this region for yourself. Perhaps, lurking within it, will be new discoveries that aren’t just record-breaking, but revolutionary.

Astronomers have cracked the cosmic code to seeing the Universe’s distant past.

JADES deepest galaxies JWST
The viewing area of the JADES survey, along with the four most distant galaxies verified within this field-of-view. The three galaxies at z = 13.20, 12.63, and 11.58 are all more distant than the previous record-holder, GN-z11, which had been identified by Hubble and has now been spectroscopically confirmed by JWST to be at a redshift of z = 10.6. No doubt these records will themselves be broken, possibly with galaxy candidates that already exist within the same field-of-view.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, M. Zamani (ESA/Webb), Leah Hustak (STScI); Science credits: Brant Robertson (UC Santa Cruz), S. Tacchella (Cambridge), E. Curtis-Lake (UOH), S. Carniani (Scuola Normale Superiore), JADES Collaboration

Simply take your largest, most powerful space-based observatory,

james webb vs. hubble
The JWST, now fully operational, has seven times the light-gathering power of Hubble, but will be able to see much farther into the infrared portion of the spectrum, revealing those galaxies existing even earlier than what Hubble could ever see, owing to its longer-wavelength capabilities and much lower operating temperatures. Galaxy populations seen prior to the epoch of reionization should abundantly be discovered, and Hubble’s old cosmic distance record has already been broken.
Credit: NASA/JWST Science Team; composite by E. Siegel

point it at the same region of sky for a long time,

This image shows the region of study of the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES). This area includes and contains the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field and reveals new galaxies at record-breaking distances that Hubble could not see. The colors on JWST images are not “true color” but rather are assigned based on a variety of choices. This image, released in December of 2022, has since been augmented by follow-on observations within the same region of space.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, M. Zamani (ESA/Webb); Science credits: Brant Robertson (UC Santa Cruz), S. Tacchella (Cambridge), E. Curtis-Lake (UOH), S. Carniani (Scuola Normale Superiore), JADES Collaboration

and observe it over a wide range of infrared wavelengths.

Preliminary total system throughput for each NIRCam filter, including contributions from the JWST Optical Telescope Element (OTE), NIRCam optical train, dichroics, filters, and detector quantum efficiency (QE). Throughput refers to photon-to-electron conversion efficiency. By using a series of JWST filters extending to much longer wavelengths than Hubble’s limit (between 1.6 and 2.0 microns), JWST can reveal details that are completely invisible to Hubble. The more filters that are leveraged in a single image, the greater the amount of details and features that can be revealed.
Credit: NASA/JWST NIRCam instrument team

As the expanding Universe stretches starlight to longer wavelengths, infrared observing is key.

redshift distance expanding Universe
When light is emitted from a source, it has a particular wavelength. The longer it must travel through the expanding Universe before being absorbed by an observer, the greater the amount that the wavelength of that light will be redshifted, or stretched to longer values, compared to the wavelength it has when it was emitted.
Credit: Ben Gibson/Big Think

Even with light-blocking neutral atoms in the way, those long wavelengths will reveal ultra-distant galaxies.

Schematic diagram of the Universe’s history, highlighting reionization. Before stars or galaxies formed, the Universe was full of light-blocking, neutral atoms. While most of the Universe doesn’t become reionized until 550 million years afterward, with the first major waves happening at around 250 million years, a few fortunate stars may form just 50-to-100 million years after the Big Bang.
Credit: S. G. Djorgovski et al., Caltech; Caltech Digital Media Center

Already, early JWST data across many regions of sky has revealed galaxies beyond Hubble’s prior limits.

JWST deep field vs hubble
A portion of a JWST deep-field image, shown with the Hubble observations as its counterpart. Within the JWST field are a significant number of objects not seen by Hubble, showcasing JWST’s ability to reveal what Hubble could not, thanks predominantly to its longer-wavelength capabilities.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Christina Williams (NSF’s NOIRLab), Sandro Tacchella (Cambridge), Michael Maseda (UW-Madison); Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI); Animation: E. Siegel

But to go even deeper still, more observing time of the same region is necessary.

Nasa's deepest view of galaxies in the night sky using JWST.
This ultra-distant view of the Universe comes from a portion of the JADES survey, leveraging JWST’s capabilities. Although there are trillions upon trillions of stars producing the light powering these galaxies, they extend back for tens of billions of light-years in space. In reality, the density of stars in space is incredibly low.
Credit: JADES Collaboration

That’s where the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES) data truly shines.

JWST deep view web version
This image shows the first (yellow outline) and second (green outline) data releases from the JADES collaboration. All told, up to 9 NIRCam filters, many NIRSpec supporting observations, and additional coverage in three separate filters (brown area) are also included. The JADES view of the sky, which overlaps with Hubble’s GOODS data, will make up our deepest-ever view of the distant Universe to date when complete.
Credit: JADES Collaboration

The collaboration is guaranteed a total of 770+ hours of NIRCam and NIRSpec data.

JWST field of view illustrative
This illustration shows the different types of images that can be obtained with each of JWST’s instruments and observing modes, and highlights the total viewing area and other specifications inherent in each instrument. Note the disconnected field-of-view of NIRCam, and how NIRSpec observes a different region of space when NIRCam is targeted on a specific region.
Credit: JWST User Documentation

Combined, it will compose our deepest JWST view of the Universe to date.

JADES JWST Hubble Deep fields of view
The JADES observing areas, undertaken by JWST, include a total area of the sky of 125 square arc-minutes, and include both the Hubble Ultra/eXtreme Deep Fields (left) and the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field image (right). Of the most distant objects of all in this region, 93% were uniquely observed by JWST; only 7% of them were also seen by Hubble. All told, JADES will spend 770 hours observing their target region with NIRCam and NIRSpec. This image, from JADES data release 1, will be updated to include new data in light of the latest data release.
Credit: Kevin Hainline for the JADES Collaboration, AAS242

Remarkable highlights appear, already, within these deepest-ever images.

The JWST captures the deepest view of a dark night sky, revealing a large group of galaxies.
This incredible view of the distant Universe is revealed in spectacular detail with the second data release from the JADES Collaboration. Using data primarily from NIRCam but augmented spectroscopically by NIRSpec, stars and galaxies near and far, as well as some of the most distant cosmic objects of all, are all revealed alongside one another.
Credit: JADES Collaboration

Galactic groups and faint brown dwarfs appear side-by-side.

Nasa's deepest view of galaxies in the night sky using JWST.
At the center of this image, a very faint brown dwarf star, that emits no visible light but copious amounts of long-wavelength infrared light, is highlighted. Over toward the lower left of the image, a group of galaxies appears far in the distant background.
Credit: JADES Collaboration/Kevin Hainline

A stacked set of objects appears as a serendipitous alignment.

The JWST captures the deepest view yet of a group of galaxies in a dark night sky.
Another brown dwarf, with spikes around it, appears with what seem like many other sources of light stacked upon it. In reality, these more distant light sources have nothing to do with the brown dwarf, but are simply background objects that happen to appear along the same line of sight.
Credit: JADES Collaboration/Julian H. Girard

Spectroscopy reveals oxygen gas in a galaxy from 11.5 billion years ago.

NIRSpec JADES oxygen
By overlaying the (visual) NIRCam data with NIRSpec data (all data is available for download), the spectrum of many objects can be seen. Here, a distant galaxy whose light comes to us from 11.5 billion years ago reveals the telltale signature of oxygen gas.
Credit: JADES Collaboration/Kevin Hainline

The most data-rich regions will compose the JADES Origins Field.

A stunning image of a black and white spiral galaxy captured by the JWST, revealing its deepest view.
At the upper left, the grainy region displays a sample from the JADES Medium region, released earlier this year, with the JADES Origins Field at lower right. The difference in depth, resolution, and background noise is substantial, and can be seen with a mere visual inspection.
Credit: JADES Collaboration/Kevin Hainline

Explore their updated maps for yourself; you might find something mind-blowing!

Nasa's JWST space telescope.
In some regions of the JADES field, a large number of bright, luminous, and even colorful galaxies can be seen all grouped together. In other regions, the galactic density is much sparser, showcasing the rich diversity in clustering that the Universe gives us to explore.
Credit: JADES Collaboration

Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less, smile more.


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