NASA: Hubble Space Telescope Makes Spectacular Discovery
POSTED: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 12:05pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 10:20pm
UPDATE at 2:45 p.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C.— NASA has announced Tuesday that their Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the most distant object ever seen in the universe.
The Hubble Space Telescope caught the object's light, which traveled 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble. This is roughly 150 million years longer than the previous record holder. The age of the universe is around 13.7 billion years.
Astronomers said the object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the big bang. It would take more than 100 mini-galaxies like the new discovered galaxy to make up the Milky Way.
"These observations provide us with our best insights yet into the earlier primeval objects that have yet to be found," said Rychard Bouwens of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Bouwens and Garth Illingworth will report the discovery in the Jan. 27 issue of the British science journal Nature.
The tiny galaxy looks like a faint dot of starlight in the Hubble exposures. It is still too young and too small to have the spiral shape that is familiar with galaxies. And though the individual stars cannot be seen by Hubble, evidence suggests that this is a compact galaxy of hot stars formed more than 100 to 200 million years earlier from gas trapped in a pocket of dark matter.
The research shows surprising evidence about the rate of star birth during the early years of the universe. Astronomers are unsure when the first stars appeared in the universe. They said every step farther from Earth takes them deeper into the earlier years of formation when stars and galaxies began to emerge in the aftermath of the big bang.
WASHINGTON D.C. - Astronomers have pushed the Hubble Space Telescope to its limits and have seen further back in time than ever before.
NASA has begun a news conference to announce a major new discovery.
Look for details as soon as they come in.
Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live on NASA's website at: www.nasa.gov/newsaudio