Hubble telescope spies 7 galaxies from baby years of universe

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:16am IST

Related Topics

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters)- Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have found seven galaxies that formed relatively shortly after the universe's birth some 13.7 billion years ago, scientists said on Wednesday, describing them "as baby pictures of the universe."

One of the objects may be the oldest galaxy yet found, dating back to a time when the universe was just 380 million years old, a fraction of its current age.

"These early galaxies represent the building blocks of present-day galaxies," John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science, told reporters in a conference call.

The discovery of galaxies dating back to the universe's early years should help scientists figure out what happened after the "dark ages," a period of time about 200 million years after the Big Bang explosion when cooling clouds of hydrogen, clumped together by gravity, began to ignite, triggering the first generation of stars.

"It was a very important moment in cosmic history," said astronomer Richard Ellis, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Scientists do not know exactly when this "cosmic dawn" occurred and whether it was a single, dramatic event that caused all the galaxies to form their first stars, or whether it happened more gradually over millions of years.

The discovery of seven galaxies spanning a period between 350 million and 600 million years after the Big Bang supports theories that the cosmic dawn was a drawn-out affair, with galaxies slowly building up their stars and chemical elements over time, said Brant Robertson of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Astronomers plan follow-up studies after Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, launches in 2018.

The research appears in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

(Editing by Jane Sutton and Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Fighting Ebola

Reuters Showcase

Fighting Ebola

Fighting Ebola

Citing security threat, Obama expands U.S. role fighting Ebola.  Full Article 

Brazil Polls

Brazil Polls

Brazil's Rousseff slips in poll ahead of October election.  Full Article 

Scotland Referendum

Scotland Referendum

Polls show Scottish opponents of independence with slight lead ahead of vote.  Full Article 

India-China ties

India-China ties

India and China look to put knotty relations on new footing.  Full Article 

Fighting IS

Fighting IS

U.S. NSA chief says monitoring tech-savvy Islamic State  Full Article 

Typhoon Kalmaegi

Typhoon Kalmaegi

Typhoon spares Hong Kong, but disrupts business.  Full Article 

Hungry World

Hungry World

World hunger easing but 1 in 9 people undernourished - food agencies.  Full Article 

Afghan Attack

Afghan Attack

Suicide car bomber kills 3 foreign troops in Afghan capital.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage