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When it comes to the first galaxies, the James Webb Space Telescope will attempt to understand the formation of those galaxies and their link to the underlying dark matter. In case you didn’t know, most of the matter in our universe is invisible (a.k.a. “dark”), but its gravity binds everything together, including galaxies. So by studying galaxies – and especially their formation – we can get some hints as to how dark matter works. At least, that’s the hope. It turns out that astronomy is a little bit more complicated than that, and one of the major things we have to deal with when studying these distant galaxies is dust. A lot of dust.
That’s right: good old-fashioned dust. And thanks to some fancy simulations, we’re beginning to clear up the picture.
Galaxies - Time - Years - History - Universe
Galaxies first started forming a pretty long time ago, just a few hundred million years into the history of our universe. But so far we have no direct images of those first galaxies. They’re simply too far away for their light to reach us without a massive telescope. What’s more, because they are so distant and the universe has expanded since their light was emitted, they don’t glow in visible light anymore. Their light has been redshifted down to the infrared spectrum. So to have any chance at all at mapping these infant galaxies we need a large infrared telescope. Enter the James Webb.
The James Webb isn’t a survey instrument; it won’t map an incredibly large volume of the universe. But it will definitely give us some portraits of what the universe was like over 13 billion years ago, and especially what those young galaxies were like. And the structure and composition of those galaxies depends on the underlying dark matter. Everything from the amount of dark matter, what exactly...
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