OSB archive
OSB archive

12bn year-old galaxies spotted

Pete Wilton

New images released yesterday from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory are giving astronomers the most detailed view yet of what space looked like 12 billion years ago.

The pictures show tens of thousands of newly-discovered galaxies at the early stages of formation, some thought to have formed just over a billion years after the Big Bang.

The images will be analysed as part of the HerMES project which involves over 100 astronomers from six countries and is led by Seb Oliver of the University of Sussex.

HerMES team member Dimitra Rigopoulou, of Oxford University's Department of Physics and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, told me: 'It is a tremendous leap forward for understanding how galaxies form their stars. In just one picture we can see ten times as many galaxies as have been seen by all the telescopes like this one, up until today.'

The HerMES project aims to produce a map of the Universe as it was around eight billion years ago, based on data received from Herschel's SPIRE infrared camera.

Dimitra added: 'Seeing such stunning images after just 14 hours of observations gives us high expectations for the full length observations over much larger regions of the Universe. This will give us a much clearer idea of how star formation has progressed throughout the history of the Universe.'