James Webb sees carbon-rich dust particles from the first billion years of cosmic time

A new discovery has been made by NASAThe James Webb Orbital Observatory project team called the first in billions of years after the birth of the universe.

NASA, ESA, CSA James Webb Space Telescope has observed chemical signatures of carbon-rich dust particles.

According to the James Webb discovery release, this observation raises the idea of ​​a specific species of carbon-based molecule, possibly small particles such as graphite or diamond that were formed by early stars or supernovae.

In addition, the discovery opens up new possibilities for probing the complexities of the early universe and the mechanisms that may have created these mysterious dust particles.

It added that the findings open exciting avenues of exploration of the production of cosmic dust and the earliest stellar populations in our universe.

Furthermore, it states that in recent times, these grains have been associated with complex molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which take hundreds of millions of years to form. However, their presence within the first billion years of cosmic time challenges existing models.

The slight shift in absorption wavelength from known carbon-based species is a distinguishing feature of this discovery.

The team observed a 226.3-nanometer peak, which is distinct from the typical 217.5-nanometer peak associated with PAHs and graphitic grains, according to a James Webb discovery release.

This discrepancy may point to the presence of a unique assemblage of dust particles, possibly graphite- or diamond-like particles. According to the researchers, it is hypothesized that supernova ejecta or Wolf-Rayet stars may have created these grains.

Speaking to Space.com, Joris Wittstock, lead author of the research and scientist at the University of Cambridge, said, “The amazing discovery here is that we can directly see and learn about the properties of these dust particles at such an early time, and we can tell they are carbon-based.”

Earlier on July 17, the Webb telescope obtained startling evidence for mysterious ‘dark stars’. The three objects spotted by Webb, which launched in 2021 and began collecting data last year, were initially identified last December as some of the oldest known galaxies in the universe, but may instead actually be giant dark stars, according to researchers. Dark matter, the invisible material whose presence is known primarily based on its gravitational effects on the galactic scale, would be a small but important component in dark stars.

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Updated: July 20, 2023, 02:14 PM IST