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Hubble spies faint glow of oldest, most distant galaxy

 
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MessagePosté le: Jeu 27 Jan - 11:22 (2011)    Sujet du message: Hubble spies faint glow of oldest, most distant galaxy Répondre en citant



Using a powerful new camera on the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered what appears to be the most distant object ever observed, a small proto galaxy some 13.2 billion light-years away that dates back to just 480 million years or so after the Big Bang birth of the universe.

The object was found in "deep field" images taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 that combined scores of DCUO power levelingopticaland infrared exposures to capture a cosmic core sample showing nearby and increasingly distant galaxies. Showing up only in infrared light, the proto galaxy appears as a small, blurry smudge at the limits of Hubble's vision.

But careful analysis indicates it likely is a collection of hot, young stars, a cluster 100 times smaller than Earth's Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers believe such proto galaxies combined to form the larger, more familiar galaxies seen later in the evolution of the universe.

"We've gone back through 96 percent of the life of the universe, to when the universe was only 4 percent of its current age, through 500 million years after the Big Bang," said Garth Illingworth DCUO Cashof the University of California at Santa Cruz. "The team searched through these wonderful data looking for galaxies at these extremely early times. We and others have found galaxies at 650 million years, quite a lot, close to 50 of those galaxies.

"We thought that this new camera could teach us more about earlier times, so we looked very hard at the data and managed eventually to find an object. This galaxy, 500 million years after the Big Bang, is extraordinarily faint, a very blue, dynamic object, full of stars forming. Not only did we find an object, we also looked at the data extremely carefully to try and estimate what the total amount of star birth was at that time.

"We were astonished to find star birth at 500 million years was dramatically less than it was at 650 million years," he said. "So in a very short period in the life of the universe, star birth had increased by 10 times. Not only did this image tell us about, or show us a glimpse of a galaxy at very early times, but it also told us about how the star birth was increasing in the universe. And that has very important implications."

Rachel Somerville, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute who was not part of the team that made the discovery, said "perhaps the most interesting part of this research is the dog that didn't bark."
"Scientifically, it's difficult to learn that much from a single object because we don't know how typical it is," she said. "However, what this showed, which is very important, is that if the properties of galaxies and the population had remained the same as they were just 200 million years later, then they should have found at least 10 times more galaxies. That's a statistically significant result, and that means galaxies as a population were evolving very rapidly over this time period."

One of the major questions in astronomy is how long it took the first stars to form in the wake of the Big Bang and then assemble into galaxies. The Hubble Space Telescope has played a key role in that research, taking what amounts


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MessagePosté le: Jeu 27 Jan - 11:22 (2011)    Sujet du message: Publicité

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