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Hubble Discovers Oldest Known Galaxy

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« on: December 14, 2012, 05:16:47 pm »

Hubble Discovers Oldest Known Galaxy
Formed 380 million years after the Big Bang, primitive galaxy’s light just now reaching Earth.

A view of distant galaxies from the Hubble Space Telescope.   

Image from the Hubble space telescope shows some of the oldest galaxies known.

Image courtesy R. Ellis, Caltech/ESA/NASA
A possible distant galaxy.   

Faint image from Hubble telescope of oldest known galaxy. Image courtesy R. Ellis, Caltech/ESA/NASA

Marc Kaufman

for National Geographic News

Published December 12, 2012

The Hubble space telescope has discovered seven primitive galaxies formed in the earliest days of the cosmos, including one believed to be the oldest ever detected.

The discovery, announced Wednesday, is part of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field campaign to determine how and when galaxies first assembled following the Big Bang.

"This 'cosmic dawn' was not a single, dramatic event," said astrophysicist Richard Ellis with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Rather, galaxies appear to have been formed over hundreds of millions of years.

Ellis led a team that used Hubble to look at one small section of the sky for a hundred hours. The grainy images of faint galaxies include one researchers determined to be from a period 380 million years after the onset of the universe—the closest in time to the Big Bang ever observed.

The cosmos is about 13.7 billion years old, so the newly discovered galaxy was present when the universe was 4 percent of its current age. The other six galaxies were sending out light from between 380 million and 600 million years after the Big Bang. (See pictures of "Hubble's Top Ten Discoveries.")

Baby Pictures

The images are "like the first ultrasounds of [an] infant," said Abraham Loeb, a specialist in the early cosmos at Harvard University. "These are the building blocks of the galaxies we now have."

These early galaxies were a thousand times denser than galaxies are now and were much closer together as well, Ellis said. But they were also less luminous than later galaxies.

The team used a set of four filters to analyze the near infrared wavelengths captured by Hubble Wide Field Camera 3, and estimated the galaxies' distances from Earth by studying their colors. At a NASA teleconference, team members said they had pushed Hubble's detection capabilities about as far as they could go and would most likely not be able to identify galaxies from further back in time until the James Webb Space Telescope launches toward the end of the decade. (Learn about the Hubble telescope.)

"Although we may have reached back as far as Hubble will see, Hubble has set the stage for Webb," said team member Anton Koekemoer of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. "Our work indicates there is a rich field of even earlier galaxies that Webb will be able to study."
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2012, 03:04:55 pm »

 Oldest Galaxy: Distant Star System Dates Back 13.3 Billion Years, Hubble Photos Show

By ALICIA CHANG 12/12/12 03:50 PM ET EST AP

LOS ANGELES -- A galaxy once considered the oldest has reclaimed its title, scientists reported Wednesday.

Poring through Hubble Space Telescope photos, the team recalculated the galaxy's age and determined it is actually 13.3 billion years old – not a mere 13.2 billion.

The dim galaxy filled with blue stars was first noticed last year by a different group of researchers, who also used the workhorse telescope to make the previous age estimate. It reigned as the most ancient galaxy observed until last month when it was knocked off its perch by another distant galaxy.

Now it's back on top after the team used a longer exposure time to get a clearer view of the earliest and far-off galaxies. Seeing the most distant galaxies is like looking back in time and this one existed when the universe was in its infancy – about 380 million years old. More observations are needed to confirm the result, but astronomers think it's the best candidate to date.

Besides refining the galaxy's age, they found six more early ones.

"People have found one object here and there," but never so many early galaxies, said Richard Ellis, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology who led the new work.

The findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Scientists are excited about the bounty of early galaxies, which should help refine theories about the formation of the first stars and galaxies. Astronomers think galaxies started appearing about 200 million years after the Big Bang, the explosion believed to have created the universe 13.7 billion years ago. Our Milky Way – one of hundreds of billions of galaxies – formed about 10 billion years ago.

The new study adds further evidence that galaxies formed gradually over several hundred million years and not in a single burst.

"We want to know our cosmic roots, how things got started and the origins of the galaxies that we see nowadays," said Harvard University astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who had no role in the latest research.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has consistently peered back in time to reveal ancient and distant objects. The farther away something is, the longer it takes for its light to travel to Earth, which scientists use to estimate its age.

As far back as Hubble can see, it still can't capture the earliest galaxies. That job is left to its more powerful successor, the James Webb Telescope, to be launched in 2018.
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« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2012, 03:05:28 pm »

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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2012, 03:06:39 pm »

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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2012, 03:08:30 pm »

How some people believe the earth is only 6000 years old is beyond me.Would you even want to be seen with Stockwell Day? Let alone have him in your party?

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