ESA space telescope looks back 12 billion years back in time

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Washington, December 31 (ANI): A space telescope developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) has provided one of the most detailed views yet of space up to 12 billion years back in time.

The telescope was developed in part by the University of Colorado at Boulder for the 2.2 billion dollars orbiting Herschel Space Observatory launched in May 2009.

The December images have revealed thousands of newly discovered galaxies in their early stages of formation, according to CU-Boulder Associate Professor Jason Glenn, a co-investigator on the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver, or SPIRE instrument, riding aboard Herschel.

The new images are being analyzed as part of the Herschel Multi-tiered Extragalactic Survey, or HerMES, which involves more than 100 astronomers from six countries.

Equipped with three cameras including SPIRE, the Herschel Space Observatory was launched in May 2009 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.

The spacecraft - about one and one-half times the diameter of the Hubble Space Telescope - is orbiting nearly 1 million miles from Earth.

"SPIRE was designed to look for emissions from clouds and dust linked to star-forming regions in the Milky Way and beyond," said Glenn.

The most recent observations were made in the constellation Ursa Major, which includes the Big Dipper.

"The submillimeter sky is absolutely paved with galaxies," Glenn said.

"The newest images are amazingly clear and deep, which enables astronomers to detect distant galaxies they would have no chance of discovering with current ground-based telescopes," he said.

Since the light being observed with Herschel left the galaxies billions of years ago on its journey toward our solar system, the images are helping to reveal early star formation activity as well as the growth of supermassive black holes in galaxies.

The Herschel team expects to discover hundreds of thousands of new galaxies at very early stages of their formations - some more than 10 billion years old.

A single image from Herschel released in December revealed 10 times as many galaxies as have been seen before by all of the world's telescopes observing the skies in submillimeter wavelengths, according to Glenn.

"A major goal of the Herschel mission is to discover how early galaxies formed and evolved to give rise to present-day galaxies like our own," he said.

"Herschel is providing a whole new window on the universe," said Glenn. (ANI)

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