Hubble telescope finds most distant galaxies ever detected
October 8, 1998
(CNN) -- Peering into a distant corner of space with a new infrared camera that can see through space dust, the orbiting Hubble telescope has discovered the faintest, most distant galaxies ever detected, astronomers said Thursday.
The galaxies are so far away that it has taken their light 12 billion years to reach Hubble.
"These images are the deepest images of distant galaxies that have ever been obtained," said Rodger Thompson of the University of Arizona, who led the study and calls it astronomy's "Lewis and Clark expedition."
The infrared camera was installed on Hubble last year by a space shuttle crew. The new technology makes it possible for the telescope to see through the shrouds of space dust that had previously obscured distant objects.
For 10 straight days, Hubble stared at a relatively unpopulated region of deep space, allowing unimaginably faint starlight to collect on the telescope's electronic lens.
As caught on camera, the newly discovered galaxies were still clumpy and uneven, a sign that at the time they were galactic "babies." When they released the light that is now reaching Earth, they were about 700 million years old. In contrast, many scientists believe the universe is between 12 billion and 15 billion years old.
Scientists hope that Hubble's enhanced ability to see far across space -- and therefore back in time to the earliest days of the universe -- will help answer long-standing questions of how the universe changed from a starless gas cloud to the intricate system of galaxies, stars and planets.
Correspondent Rick Lockridge and Reuters contributed to this report.
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