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“They’re a bit like living fossils,” said astrophysicist James Rhoads of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Coelacanths, if you will,” referencing a fish thought to be extinct until it showed up off the coast of South Africa in 1938 (SN: 12/2/11).
These galaxies leak much more ultraviolet light, which can rip electrons from atoms, than typical galaxies do. So Green Peas dating to the universe’s first billion years or so could be partly responsible for a dramatic and mysterious cosmic transition called reionization, when most of the hydrogen atoms in the early universe had their electrons torn away (SN: 1/7/20).
Three ancient Green Peas turned up in JWST’s first image, released in July 2022 (SN: 7/21/22). The objects look red in JWST’s infrared vision, but the wavelengths of light they emit are like those of the previously discovered Green Peas. The findings in the Jan. 1 Astrophysical Journal Letters.“This helps us explain how the universe reionized,” Rhoads said. “I think this is an important piece of the puzzle.”