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February 26, 2024

Webb Reveals Many Early Galaxies Looked Like Pool Noodles, Surfboards

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Jan 18, 2024

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed intriguing new details about the shapes of early galaxies in the universe, showing many had elongated shapes resembling pool noodles, surfboards and breadsticks.

Pool Noodle Galaxies Puzzle Scientists

Analyzing Webb’s first deep field images, astronomers were surprised to find a significant number of early galaxies had unusual elongated shapes. The origins of these “pool noodle galaxies” have puzzled scientists.

“Their speckled appearance suggests they are full of blobs and bursts of new star formation,” said astronomer Jane Rigby. “We don’t know how these galaxies turned into these strange shapes, but Webb gives us new clues to unravel this cosmic mystery.”

While some galaxies today have elongated shapes due to collisions with other galaxies, astronomers think a different mechanism must be responsible for shaping these early galaxies coming together only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

“It’s like finding hundreds of warped and twisted doorways to the earliest years of our universe,” said astronomer Dan Coe. “Webb lets us investigate how these galaxies came to be shaped like noodles and surfboards, opening up questions we didn’t even know to ask.”

Surprising Statistics on Surfboard Galaxies

An initial analysis by Coe’s team found that around 15 percent of early galaxies imaged by Webb have the unusual elongated shapes. A third of those are shaped like flat surfboards.

“The fact we found so many ‘surfboard galaxies’ early in the universe is a complete surprise,” said Coe. “Based on our current theories of galaxy formation, we did not expect to find many elongated galaxies when the universe was only a tenth of its current age.”

Shape Percentage
Pool noodles 10%
Surfboards 5%
Other elongated 5%
Compact 80%

“The prevalence of these galactic shapes poses a puzzle,” explained Rigby. “It challenges our ideas of how galaxies assemble and grow.”

Clues Point to Supermassive Black Holes

Astronomers theorize the strange shapes could be influenced by particularly active supermassive black holes at the centers of the galaxies. As black holes gorge on surrounding material, they spit out energized particles that could knock gas clouds into new patterns, stretching galaxies into unusual forms.

Follow-up Webb observations set to take place later this year will analyze the motions and composition of material around the supermassive black holes in elongated galaxies. Researchers hope this will shed light on the role of black holes in shaping the noodles and surfboards.

“Supermassive black holes are usually surrounded by doughnut-shaped dust clouds,” said Coe. “Webb’s incredible resolution and sensitivity should reveal doughnut-shaped structures and dynamics caused by black holes.”

Future Impact: Revising Galaxy Growth Models

The prevalence of pool noodle galaxies in the early universe will force astronomers to rethink their models of galaxy growth and evolution.

“Finding so many early galaxies with elongated shapes was completely unexpected,” said Rigby. “We will have to revise simulations and theories to explain their origins.”

Incorporating the new pool noodle galaxy data into models will likely change predictions for how galaxies transition from the chaotic early universe into the beautiful spirals and ellipticals we see today.

“Explaining these strangely shaped early galaxies is the next leap for models of galaxy formation,” said Coe. “It’s incredibly exciting that Webb is already posing these kinds of fundamental puzzles so soon after turning on.”

Over the upcoming months and years, researchers plan an extensive analysis campaign using Webb to unlock the secrets of pool noodle galaxies across cosmic history. Astronomers eagerly anticipate Webb will reveal further surprises and radically reshape our understanding of how galaxies assemble themselves.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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