News / USA

Hubble Spots Oldest Galaxy Ever Seen

The farthest and one of the very earliest galaxies ever seen in the universe appears as a faint red blob in this ultra-deep–field exposure taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope
The farthest and one of the very earliest galaxies ever seen in the universe appears as a faint red blob in this ultra-deep–field exposure taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

Since 1990, the Hubble space telescope has served as a stunning observatory, sending hundreds of thousands of images of the universe back to Earth.  The latest Hubble discovery - what scientists believe to be a tiny galaxy of blue stars that is perhaps the oldest object ever seen in the universe.

From its orbiting vantage point 568 kilometers above the Earth, NASA's Hubble telescope has forever altered the meaning of the phrase "as far as the eye can see."

Garth Illingworth, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is Hubble's principal investigator.  He says this telescopic eye has spotted what is likely the oldest and most distant object ever seen in the universe - a galaxy that dates back 13.2 billion years.

"We've gone back through 96 percent of the life of the universe to when the universe was only four percent of its current age, to 500 million years after the Big Bang," he said.

According to the Big Bang theory, the universe was born 13.7 billion years ago in a single violent event, and, since that time, galaxies outside our Milky Way have been speeding away from us, creating a rapidly expanding universe.

Speaking at a NASA teleconference Wednesday, Illingworth explained that scientists had pored through Hubble's observations and already discovered nearly 50 galaxies that date back to 650 million years after the formation of the universe.

That changed after Hubble got an upgraded camera in May 2009, which allowed scientists to look even deeper into space and further back in time.

That is when astronomers spotted what looked like a faint dot of starlight in the Hubble exposures.

"We managed eventually to find an object," Garth Illingworth said.  "This galaxy [that formed] 500 million years after the Big Bang is extraordinarily faint, a very blue, dynamic object full of stars, forming star birth.  There's a whole lot of stars being formed in the object."

Scientists involved in this Hubble discovery say they are about 80 percent confident that this object is a compact galaxy of blue stars, less than one percent of the size of our Milky Way.  They say this object's light traveled 13.2 billion years to reach the lenses of the Hubble telescope.

Illingworth says that makes this object the most ancient thing ever seen in the 13.7-billion-year-old universe. And, according to Illingworth, this galactic finding has even greater implications.

"We were astonished to find that the star birth at 500 million years was dramatically less than it was at 650 million years," he said.

Using Hubble observations, astronomers estimate the rate of star birth in the universe increased ten-fold in the period between 500 million years and 650 million years after the Big Bang, a relatively short period of time in cosmic terms.

"So not only did this image tell us about or show us a glimpse of the galaxy at very early times, but it also told us about how the star birth was increasing in the universe," he said.

Illingworth says he believes Hubble will enable astronomers to find more 500-million-year-old galaxies, but he says it will take the next generation of telescope to see older objects and earlier times.

The findings are published in the January 27 issue of the journal Nature.

 

This video is a zoom into the Hubble Space Telescope infrared Ultra Deep Field, first taken in 2009. It is a very small patch of sky in the southern constellation Fornax. The zoom centers on the farthest identified object in the field. The object, possibly a galaxy, looks red because its light has been stretched by the expansion of the universe.

Credit: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon, STScI (no audio)

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid