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News Release Archive:

News Release 274 of 955

April 29, 2008 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2008-15

Compact Galaxies in Early Universe Pack a Big Punch

April 29, 2008: Imagine receiving an announcement touting the birth of a baby 20 inches long and weighing 180 pounds. After reading this puzzling message, you would immediately think the baby's weight was a misprint. Astronomers looking at galaxies in the universe's distant past received a similar perplexing announcement when they found nine young, compact galaxies, each weighing in at 200 billion times the mass of the Sun. The galaxies, each only 5,000 light-years across, are a fraction of the size of today's grownup galaxies but contain approximately the same number of stars. Each galaxy could fit inside the central hub of our Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to study the galaxies as they existed 11 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 3 billion years old.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, P. van Dokkum (Yale University), M. Franx (Leiden University, The Netherlands), and G. Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz, and Lick Observatory)