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As soon as President Biden unveiled the first image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on July 11, Massimo Pascale and his team sprang into action.

Coordinating over Slack, Pascale, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and 14 collaborators divvied up tasks. The image showed thousands of galaxies in a pinprick-size portion of the sky, some magnified as their light bent around a central cluster of galaxies. The team set to work scrutinizing the image, hoping to publish the very first JWST science paper. “We worked nonstop,” said Pascale. “It was like an escape room.”

Three days later, just minutes before the daily deadline on arxiv.org, the server where scientists can upload early versions of papers, the team submitted their research. They missed out on being first by 13 seconds, “which was pretty funny,” said Pascale.

The victors, Guillaume Mahler at Durham University in the United Kingdom and colleagues, analyzed that same first JWST image. “There was just a sheer pleasure of being able to take this amazing data and publish it,” Mahler said. “If we can do it fast, why should we wait?”

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