Washington, January 6 (ANI): Astronomers, using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, have broken the distance limit for galaxies by uncovering a primordial population of compact and ultra-blue galaxies, which date back to 13 billion years ago, just 600 to 800 million years after the Big Bang.
These newly found objects are crucial to understanding the evolutionary link between the birth of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies, and the sequence of evolutionary events that resulted in the assembly of our Milky Way and the other "mature" elliptical and majestic spiral galaxies in today's universe.
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2009 (HUDF09) team combined the new Hubble data with observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to estimate the ages and masses of these primordial galaxies.
"The masses are just 1 percent of those of the Milky Way," explained team member Ivo Labbe of the Carnegie Observatories.
He further noted that "to our surprise, the results show that these galaxies existed at 700 million years after the Big Bang and must have started forming stars hundreds of millions of years earlier, pushing back the time of the earliest star formation in the universe."
The deepest-ever near- infrared view of the universe - the HUDF09 image - has now been combined with the deepest-ever optical image the original HUDF taken in 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys - to push back the frontier of the search for the first galaxies.
According to team member Rychard Bouwens of the University of California, Santa Cruz, "the faintest galaxies are now showing signs of linkage to the origin of the first stars. They are so blue that they must be extremely deficient in heavy elements, thus representing a population that has nearly primordial characteristics."
"With the rejuvenated Hubble and its new instruments, we are now entering unchartered territory that is ripe for new discoveries," said Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz, leader of the HUDF09 survey team. (ANI)