Scientists discover a “surprise” that changes their understanding of the universe

Going back to the early days of the universe sounds like something that can only be achieved in science fiction, but experts have managed to find something real from far away in the depths of time.

Some of the world's leading astronomers discovered something “truly amazing” billions of years ago that could completely change the understanding of our universe.

This came as a result of studying the findings of the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

This highly advanced technology allows experts to study the oldest galaxies in the universe, giving an indication of conditions that existed long ago.

The universe is around 13.7 billion years old, and a team of researchers from Durham University have been able to observe data known as the formation of bars just a few billion years after the universe formed – something absolutely amazing to understand.

This goes back further than previous insights provided by the Hubble Space Telescope, which provide insight into conditions nine billion years ago.

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

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The new findings are more important than just providing a view that goes back further than before. In fact, the nature of the results may mean that our understanding of the early days of the universe may need to be re-evaluated.

It's about bar formations, that the presence of these more stable shapes is an indication of more stable environments, compared to the more chaotic nature of galaxies in their early gestation period.

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Zoe Le Conti is a PhD researcher at the Center for Extragalactic Astronomy within the Department of Physics at Durham University, as well as the lead author of the paper.

“Galaxies in the early universe matured much faster than we thought,” Le Conte said. This is a real surprise because you would expect the universe at that point to be very turbulent, with a lot of collisions between galaxies and a lot of gas that had not yet turned into stars.

“However, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, we see many of these bars very early in the life of the universe, which means that galaxies were at a more stable stage in their evolution than previously thought.

“This means that we will have to adjust our views about the early evolution of the galaxy.”

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