Hubble takes furthest peep back into universe's history

Spots galaxy formed 380 million years after Big Bang


The Hubble space telescope has taken its longest look back into the beginnings of the universe and found seven galaxies formed less than 600 million years after the Big Bang, including one that may be the earlest ever seen.

The galaxies are in a zone that was formed when the universe was just 4 per cent of its current age and the closest one is an estimated 380 million years post-Bang, corresponding to a redshift of 11.9. This was at a time when the first clouds of cooling hydrogen were clumping together and igniting into stars (highlighted in the image below.)

Hubble was used to scan a section of the Ultra Deep Field data captured between 2003 and 2004, and a team led by Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology made their observations using its Wide Field Camera 3 at the very limits of its capabilities.

"It's been a triumph of Hubble I think," said Ellis. "We've managed to push Hubble really as far as it can go in looking back into the universe."

Ellis and his team won the time on Hubble in a competitive bidding process for the project back in 2011, but deferred on shooting the image until it could get an uninterrupted six-week period to take images with a variety of filters. Ellis described the atmosphere as tense when the data came in this August, but it proved perfect.

Hubble image

Oh my god, it's full of stars! (click to enlarge)

The seven earliest galaxies were part of the first wave that "re-ionized" the universe by breaking down the hydrogen to form the other elements found today. Scientists are keen to see whether this process was a series of large galactic ignitions or lots of smaller ones. The latter appears somewhat more likely, Ellis said.

"What we find is that at this early time there are many more intrinsically faint galaxies than we see in the present day universe, and that's a very important result," he said. "These abundant and very feeble galaxies do the main job we think of re-ionizing the universe."

We are stardust

"This is the time where the universe started to make stars and galaxies that made the chemical elements that we are literally made out of; the oxygen we breathe, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones - this is the beginning of everything," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science, in a press call.

John Grunsfeld repairs the Hubble

Grunsfeld gets hands on with Hubble

Grunsfeld has a special attachment to Hubble, as he was the last human being to touch it while doing the final upgrade in a 2009 spacewalk. The Atlantis mission crew installed the Wide Field Camera 3 used in today's findings, as well as the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph that's currently checking out the Solar System.

The team will now be publishing seven papers on the study, which should be out within the next few months. Ellis said the next step was to check their figures on the 380 million year old galaxy finding in case there's been a mistake in the redshift data.

Redshift data

Still a long way to go (click to enlarge)

"One possibility is that it is a galaxy with a redshift of 2.4 which has a very strong gaseous emission line and it’s possible this line was lying smack bang in the center of this filter," he said.

"If this object was an emission line galaxy then it should have a corresponding hydrogen emission line in the optical. We were able to search for this and we didn’t find it. We're guarded, because it could be an exotic object that has intense emission lines, but on balance we're fairly confident." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022