Scientists discover ‘surprise’ which changes understanding of universe

Scientists discover ‘surprise’ which changes understanding of universe


Peering back to the very earliest days of the universe sounds like something that would only be possible in science fiction, but experts have managed to find something from far back in the depths of time for real.

Some of the world’s leading astronomers have discovered something ‘really surprising’ from billions of years ago which could completely change the understanding of our universe.

It came as a result of studying findings from the Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The hugely advanced technology allows experts to study the earliest galaxies in the universe, giving an indication of the conditions from long, long ago.

The universe is around 13.7 billion years old, and a team of researchers from Durham University were able to observe data known as bar formation from just a few billion years after the universe was formed – which is pretty staggering to comprehend.

That’s further back than the previous insights from the Hubble Space Telescope which offers insight into conditions nine billion years ago.

The team’s findings are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


The new findings are more significant than just offering a view further back into the past than before. In fact, the nature of the findings could mean that our understanding of the earliest days of the universe might need to be reevaluated.

It relates to bar formations, as the presence of these more settled forms are indicators of more settled environments, comporated to the more chaotic nature of galaxies in their earlier gestation period.

Zoe Le Conte is a PhD researcher in the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy within the Department of Physics at Durham University, as well as being the lead author on the research.

Le Conte said: “Galaxies in the early universe are maturing much faster than we thought. This is a real surprise because you would expect the universe at that stage to be very turbulent with lots of collisions between galaxies and a lot of gas that hasn’t yet transformed into stars.

“However, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope we are seeing a lot of these bars much earlier in the life of the Universe which means that galaxies were at a more settled stage in their evolution than previously thought.

“This means we will have to adjust our views on early galaxy evolution.”

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