UK & World News

  • 8 January 2014, 1:39

Hubble Photographs Universe's Oldest Galaxies

Photographs showing objects from the first billion years after the big bang have been taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

It has glimpsed further away into the universe than any observatory before it to produce six new "deep field" images.

The photos used a 50-hour exposure to gather enough light, revealing galaxies that may be more than 12 billion light-years away.

Project leader Jennifer Lotz said: "It is the deepest view of the universe ever taken.

"We're seeing things 10 or 20 times fainter than anything we've seen before."

She presented the images at the latest meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Hubble's first deep field image was released in 1996 and revealed around 3,000 galaxies.

The newest deep fields use updated cameras on Hubble and look further afield by taking advantage of "natural" telescopes - the earth's gravitational lenses.

These occur when objects such as clusters of galaxies warp space time around them, causing light travelling nearby to take a curved path.

Galaxies that lie beyond the lenses appear magnified and brightened.

In May Hubble will collect more data on this first field, bringing the photo's total exposure time to 103 hours.

Ms Lotz said: "We're really interested in knowing what happened in that first billion years of the universe."

The project could help to show when and how the first galaxies formed.

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