For the first time new pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope revealed galaxies with star bars at a time when the universe was a quarter of its current age.
Starbars are elongated features of stars that extend from the centers of galaxies into their outer disks. They direct gas to central regions and promote star formation.
In a press release, the University of Texas said the discovery of the barred galaxies will compel scientists to refine their theories of galaxy evolution, noting that the Hubble Space Telescope had never detected bars at such young epochs.
For example, while the galaxy EGS-23205 appears blurry in a Hubble image, Webb’s image is more clearly defined, showing a spiral galaxy with a clear star bar.
The James Webb Space Telescope has a larger mirror, allowing it to collect more light and see farther with higher resolution.
As observed longer infrared wavelengths than Hubbleit can also see through dust better.
“I looked at this data once and said, ‘We’re dropping everything else!'” said Shardha Jogee, a professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, in a statement sharing data from the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Described Survey (CEERS).
Another barred galaxy, EGS-24268, also formed about 11 billion years ago – meaning that two barred galaxies exist further back in time than previously discovered.
The international group of researchers highlighted these galaxies and showed examples of four others more than 8 billion years ago in an article in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Two undergraduate students played key roles visually Checking hundreds of galaxies and searching for those that could be analyzed using a more rigorous mathematical approach.
Bars also help in the formation of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, with the gas channeling part of the way.
The existence of these rods, the university said, challenges theoretical models and the team will test different models in additional work.
“This early bar discovery means that galaxy evolution models now have a new way across bars to accelerate the production of new stars in early epochs,” Jogee said.