No, the JWST Did Not Find the 'Oldest Galaxy' Ever

Plus: Astronomers on Twitter are buzzing, the everlasting legacy of Hubble, NASA's next major telescope launch, a tower that creates carbon-neutral jet fuel, the largest canyon in our solar system and much more! ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 
CNET Science

Hello friends,

The James Webb Space Telescope began sending back images nearly two weeks ago now, but we still have much to discuss about it. Discoveries are pouring in -- many of which have been dutifully pointed out by astronomers on Twitter -- and we’ve compiled some of the big ones for you to peruse below. But one of these findings, in particular, deserves a story of its own.

Across the internet, you might’ve seen claims that the JWST has identified the “oldest galaxy” ever -- but there are a few caveats. CNET's science editor, Jackson Ryan lays them out in the top article linked above. Personally, the one that sticks out is the fact that the scientists who say they’ve located this galaxy have only just submitted their evidence for peer review -- and actually, there are two teams vying for credit right now. All of this is to say that, perhaps this is the oldest galaxy ever found -- but we still aren’t sure yet.

And as Jackson says, uncertainty in science is something to be celebrated, not ignored.

Additionally, with all the celebration surrounding Webb, I couldn’t help but feel that Hubble’s been cast as “old news.” So, I reached out to a bunch of scientists to see how they feel about the narrative we’ve given our trusty ‘scope, and as I suspected, Hubble is very much not old news. Our big story (linked below) is about everything I discovered about Hubble’s legacy.

Aside from that, NASA has announced a few possible launch dates for its Artemis I mega moon rocket launch, and the ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft snapped an absolutely breathtaking view of a canyon on the red planet. It’s the largest canyon in our entire solar system! A tower in Spain is successfully creating carbon-neutral jet fuel, and we have some updates on NASA’s next next-gen telescope. Lots more great stuff on our site!

📧The Mailbag📧

Mike asks: I keep seeing online that [the James Webb Space Telescope] is gold-plated. Why was that necessary?

Hey Mike! Yes, you’re correct. The James Webb Space Telescope has 18 hexagonal mirrors all coated in real gold. Basically, those mirrors are all meant to reflect infrared light -- which is the kind emanating from the deep cosmos -- the instruments on the JWST that can translate it into information we can process. So, the goal is to get as much infrared light reflected as efficiently as possible.

And because gold is a unique element of the periodic table, it carries a specific electron structure in each of its atoms. As it turns out, this structure is particularly good at reflecting redder light wavelengths -- and infrared light. That’s actually why gold appears the color it does to us -- quite warm-toned -- because of all the red light wavelengths it reflects to our eyes.

Hope that helps and thanks for the Q.

And don't forget, whenever you like, send science questions, thoughts, comments, chats, space-based worries and philosophical ponderings to my email or message me on Twitter! And if you're enjoying this column, please do forward it to your friends!

Enim scientia et astra!

Monisha Ravisetti Monisha Ravisetti
Science Writer, CNET
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