Hubble takes a deep view of cosmos

Scientists have unveiled an extraordinary picture of the early universe in an image snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope that looks deep into the cosmos.

    The image dates back 700mn years after the Big Bang

    Experts at the Space Telescope Science Institute said on Tuesday the image dated

    back 13bn years to just 700mn years after

    the Big Bang.

    Hubble has looked back in time before, but this image,

    known as the Ultra Deep Field, is the most profound vision the

    orbiting telescope has ever captured.

    The new

    picture looks like a scattering of jewels on black

    velvet, but is in fact 10,000 galaxies crammed into a

    section of sky about one-tenth the size of the full moon.

    It peers only 300mn miles deeper into the

    ancient universe than similar Hubble images made in the 1990s.

    Cosmic dark age

    But this extra distance sees back to when the very first infant

    galaxies were forming, a time of great interest to astronomers

    because it marks a transition point from a cosmic dark age.

    "This is the deepest view of the visible ever taken.


    an amazing time to be an astrophysicist"

    Rodger Thompson,

    "This is the deepest view of the visible ever taken," said

    Rodger Thompson, one of a team of astronomers who put the image

    together with two of Hubble's sophisticated instruments.


    an amazing time to be an astrophysicist."

    Thompson and other scientists emphasised the importance of

    looking at the earliest times of galactic development, which

    can be more dramatic and sweeping than the evolution of

    galaxies as they age.

    "It doesn't seem like much ... but when you realise that

    this is a time when a phase transition occurred in the universe

    ... this is a very critical time, you want to have details on

    that critical time," Hubble astronomer Mario Livio said


    Giant leap

    Livio and other astronomers likened the development of the

    universe to the development of a human being.

    They noted the

    most dramatic changes occur at the earliest ages, making even a

    seemingly slight increase in the depth of observation a giant

    leap for basic study of the cosmos.

    Hubble produced the picture over
    four months as it orbited earth

    The quality of the image is so fine that galaxies billions

    of miles away show features that scientists formerly had seen

    only in galaxies in Earth's cosmic neighbourhood.

    These early galaxies are shown to be more chaotic, to

    interact more with each other, and to be less well-formed than

    our own Milky Way, the astronomers said.

    Hubble made the picture over four months as it orbited Earth, from 24 September

    2003 to 26 January of this year, over a

    total of one 11.3 days of viewing time.

    The production of the image was shrouded in such secrecy

    that until Tuesday only four people had seen the whole picture,

    said Steven Beckwith, director of the telescope institute.

    Hubble's final act?

    This was done to create a level field for research, since

    any scientist who saw the whole picture in advance could begin

    studying the vast wealth of data it contained.

    "It's like the great land rush, where the gun is fired and

    everybody takes off," Beckwith said. "There was no advantage to

    the home team."

    Beckwith and others noted this could be the last such image

    made by Hubble.

    NASA has decided to forego a scheduled

    servicing mission for the telescope, which means its gyroscopes

    and battery could doom it to an early demise.

    "There is not a final act, there is kind of a denouement,"

    Beckwith said of Hubble's ultimate fate.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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