James Webb Space Telescope images show early galaxy formation : Short Wave If you ask a physicist or cosmologist about the beginnings of the universe, they'll probably point you to some math and tell you about the Big Bang theory. It's a scientific theory about how the entire universe began, and it's been honed over the decades. But recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope have called the precise timeline of the theory a little bit into question. That's because these images reveal galaxies forming way earlier than was previously understood to be possible. To understand whether it's physics itself or just our imaginations that need help, we called up theoretical physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.

Got questions about the big and small of our universe? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

What galaxies forming earlier than scientists thought possible means for physics

What galaxies forming earlier than scientists thought possible means for physics

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The seven galaxies noted in this James Webb Space Telescope image are at a distance that astronomers refer to as redshift 7.9, which correlates to 650 million years after the big bang. NASA, ESA, CSA, T. Morishita (IPAC). Image processing: A. Pagan (STScI) hide caption

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NASA, ESA, CSA, T. Morishita (IPAC). Image processing: A. Pagan (STScI)

The seven galaxies noted in this James Webb Space Telescope image are at a distance that astronomers refer to as redshift 7.9, which correlates to 650 million years after the big bang.

NASA, ESA, CSA, T. Morishita (IPAC). Image processing: A. Pagan (STScI)

If you ask a physicist or cosmologist about the beginnings of the universe, they'll probably point you to some math and tell you about the Big Bang theory. It's a scientific theory about how the entire universe began, and it's been honed over the decades. But recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope have called the precise timeline a little bit into question. That's because these images reveal galaxies forming way earlier than was previously understood to be possible. To understand whether it's physics itself or just our imaginations that need help, we called up theoretical physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.

Listen to Short Wave on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

Got questions about the big and small of our universe? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

This episode was produced by Berly McCoy, edited by our managing producer Rebecca Ramirez, and fact checked by Brit Hanson. Our audio engineer was Patrick Murray.