Friday, January 08, 2010

Just a geek before I go

One last bit of geek news from an oldster before getting back to the daily world.
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the earliest image yet of the universe - just 600 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was just a toddler.

Scientists released the photo Tuesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. It's the most complete picture of the early universe so far, showing galaxies with stars that are already hundreds of millions of years old, along with the unmistakable primordial signs of the first cluster of stars.
The galaxies are so young they haven't formed spiral or elliptical shapes and are seeds of the later, larger galaxies of today.
The new Hubble picture captures those distant simpler galaxies juxtaposed amid closer, newer and more evolved ones. The result is a cosmic family photo that portrays galaxies at different ages and stages of development over the course of more than 13 billion years.
In the image, the earliest galaxies are the small, faint, blue ones.

The Hubble was launched in April 1990 and so is approaching 20 years of service. In addition to a boatload of spectacular images, it has helped resolve a conflict over the age of the universe and was instrumental in demonstrating the presence of supermassive black holes at the centers of most if not all galaxies and, perhaps most dramatically, in discovering the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. The Hubble should be in service until at least 2014 and quite possibly beyond.

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