Using the James Webb Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers has detected organic molecules in the most remote region of the universe to date. The newly discovered molecules are prevalent on Earth as smoke, soot, and pollution.
According to Texas A&M University, the researchers used the Webb telescope to discover organic molecules in a galaxy more than 12 billion light years away.
Since the galaxy is so distant, it took 12 billion years for light to reach the telescope. In other words, astronomers are observing the galaxy as it existed when the universe was less than 1.5 billion years old.
The Webb telescope found organic compounds in a galaxy 12 billion light-years distant.
In addition to the Webb telescope’s impressive capabilities, the researchers also benefited from a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing.
If there is a massive galaxy between you and a distant celestial object that you are observing, the foreground galaxy will deform and distort the light from behind it, effectively creating a lens that magnifies the distant object.
In this instance, the background galaxy’s light is stretched and magnified into a ring-like structure known as an Einstein ring. In his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein originally predicted the phenomenon of gravitational lensing. A research article was published yesterday in the journal Nature.
In the Webb data, researchers discovered the signature of massive organic molecules similar to those found in pollution and smoke.
“These large molecules are surprisingly prevalent in space. Astronomers once believed they indicated the formation of new stars. Wherever these molecules were found, infant stars were also present and glowing away.
According to Spilker, however, recent research indicates that this may not always be the case. In the Webb high-definition images, the researchers observed many regions with “smoke” but no star formation, as well as regions with new star formation but no smoke.