Hubble Finds One of the Earliest, Brightest Galaxies in the Universe

By boosting the abilities of Hubble with a gravitational lens telescope provided by nature, astronomers have been able to peer back to the earliest times in the Universe; to see a galaxy just 700 million years after the Big Bang.

The newly forming galaxy (well, it was newly forming 13 billion years ago) is called A1689-zD1, and appears to be undergoing furious levels of star formation. Just a few hundred million years before this, the Universe was in the dark ages, when the Universe’s hydrogen cooled and formed thick clouds of hydrogen. This hydrogen acted like a fog, obscuring everywhere.

Although it’s tremendously powerful, the Hubble Space Telescope wasn’t strong enough to image the galaxy. It took the additional gravity of the nearby Abel 1689 cluster to act as a natural lens and magnify the light coming from A1689-zD1. With this technique, astronomers were able to increase its brightness by a factor of 10.

The hope is that this galaxy will give astronomers valuable insights into the formative years of galaxy birth and evolution. One of these questions is: what ended the dark ages?

“This galaxy presumably is one of the many galaxies that helped end the dark ages,” said astronomer Larry Bradley of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., and leader of the study. “Astronomers are fairly certain that high-energy objects such as quasars did not provide enough energy to end the dark ages of the universe. But many young star- forming galaxies may have produced enough energy to end it.”

The studies show that this galaxy is probably a good example of what most galaxies looked like in the early Universe. It’s just a fraction of the mass of the Milky Way, but it has high rates of star formation. Much of this star formation is happening in very tiny regions compared to the size of the final galaxy.

Obviously, with Hubble straining at its limits to see this galaxy at all, it can’t make out individual stars, only knots of the brightest ones. But future telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, is ideally suited to take a much deeper look at it. It would also make a good target for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, which will become the most powerful radio telescope in the world when it’s completed in 2012.

Original Source: Hubble News Release

13 Replies to “Hubble Finds One of the Earliest, Brightest Galaxies in the Universe”

  1. “What ended the dark ages? Dust. Gravitational attraction finally sparks fusion in a dust filled region of space. This one starbirth upsests the apple cart by blasting swaths of nearby dust crashing into other dust clusters. I suppose you could use a billiard table analogy. Where there’s dust, there’s light.

  2. Actually, “Dwight,” it was more than a “couple of billion,” it was the project that shaped the design of the Space Shuttle, both originally scheduled for delivery around the time of the Bicentennial. Fifteen years and many a Shuttle mission, including the loss of seven extraordinary astronauts and the Challenger, would pass before the near-sighted thing was finally flown. The hard knowledge we have learned from the bureaucratic and design failures, the servicing missions, not to mention the fantastic science that can only be appreciated with a study of where that science was prior to the Hubble, was worth every penny. Compare the Trillions spent on the Johnson Administration’s “unconditional War on Poverty” since 1965, and note that poverty has, since then, bumped up. Ask yourself which effort will be better remembered five centuries from now.

    If we can salvage from The Vision (itself a legacy of disaster, “the rugged way to the stars”) a program that takes advantage of the platform for science available to us on Earth’s Moon, then the completed book on the experimental spacecraft called the Space Shuttle, which began as a truck to carry up the Hubble, will have been worth every penny and all the hard won knowledge that can only come from failures. We learn by losing, not winning.

  3. That’s a supposition that there was a “Big Bang?” “Like the story of the tree falling in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Was the sound a… “Crack”… “Bang”… or “Boom”?

    What is it to say that it exists when such an existence avoids all knowing? George Berkeley in the 18th century developed subjective idealism, a metaphysical theory to respond to these questions, coined famously as “to be is to be perceived.” Today metaphysicians are split. According to substance theory, a substance is distinct from its properties. According to bundle theory, an object is merely its sense data. —

    As to Fraser Cain’s question: “What ended the dark ages?” Answer: Enlightenment (lol)

    But seriously, the concept of magnification is a real interest, especially, if they’ll be able to use this method with the “Atacama Large Millimeter Array” after 2012. Possibly, getting close enuf’ to see (hear) the “Bang”, or not.


  4. Hmmm. Another picture of a couple of fuzzy dots. Good thing we spent a couple of billion on the Hubble.

  5. For those who don’t recall Joel’s reference to the “War on Poverty,” ewad below. Hubble is money well spent, the scientific value gained is immeasurable. . .

    During President Johnson’s administration, his government fought what was identified as being a “War on Poverty� under the auspicious of his “The Great Society� the slogan under which he’d campaigned and was elected in 1964. After decades of dashed hopes and expenditures there were no lasting tangible benefits realized by the nation, apparently, accepting the war on poverty had been fought and poverty had won. Congress passed in 1996, the “Personal Responsibility and Employment Opportunity Act� – being little more than a frustrated withdrawal from the U.S. War on Poverty.

  6. I guess I would suggest that the Hubble Telescope be described as sensitive rather than powerful. Powerful as a descriptor should be reserved for devices that do work on things.

  7. The History Channel or Discovery Channel just did a whole show on the Hubble. I don’t remember them quoting a total for the entire package, but they did say that the mirror cost $450 million alone. Now add to that the cost of everything to go with it and the fact that it launched 20 years late ant was WAY more thab a couple billion.

  8. I can’t wait for the ATLAS scope, that’ll be even better than the James Webb and it might be able to image extrasolar planets!

  9. I can’t find a viable explanation anywhere for this, much as I try: If they are claiming that they are viewing a galaxy just 700 million years after the big bang, (implying that the big bang could be viewed by viewing an additional 700 million light years deeper/distant), what if they looked in the opposite direction, (from Earth), just as distantly? Can they also claim the same age of a viewed galaxy and nearness to the big bang?
    These explanations/descriptions seem to imply a big bang originally taking place near earth, as though we were and are the center of it all with all matter moving outward and away from us- and other times, as though the big bang occurred at 13.7 billion light years distance at all points – in all directions.
    The age of the shown galaxy – 700 million years old – implies that 13 billion years has past since the big bang – (at the location of that galaxy) – but it took 13 billion years for the light to reach us.
    What of a similar galaxy – with similar stats – in a completely different direction from us?
    And with a fairly well establish age of the universe at 13.7 billion years – how is the universe supposedly over 150 billion light years across?
    Well, back to earth. I’m off to fix a dripping faucet…::smiles::

  10. Gee fellas, who cares if the Hubble cost a couple of billion dollars. That’s about the same price as ONE stealth bomber in a country where the total GNP is approaching 14 trillion.
    And it still blows my mind that space itself is expanding. If we can see 13 billion light-years into the distant past with Hubble, imagine what we’re going to be able to do with the new instruments coming on line. If all this isn’t worth a ‘hot diggity damn’ I don’t know what is.

  11. Not sure about this big bang theory, I well remember the ‘space scientists’ imaging the darkest past of the distant universe with Hubble telescope for something like a week, just to see what would be there.
    I said to my wife there will be thousands more galaxies there-and there was!!
    I wish I were a ‘space scientist’ and come up with marvellous theories like Dr S Hawkins who suggested 20 years ago that the universe was about 10-12 billion light years old.
    Didnt believe him then and dont believe in the big bang theory now.
    I’m looking forward to seeing thousands more galaxies when the new generation of space telescopes are launched!
    The images are just mind blowing and beautiful to behold.

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