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December 12, 2012 02:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2012-48

Hubble Provides First Census of Galaxies Near Cosmic Dawn

A NASA Science Update Release
Hubble Provides First Census of Galaxies Near Cosmic DawnGo to image download page Go to video downloads page

December 12, 2012: Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have uncovered a previously unseen population of seven primitive galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 3 percent of its present age. The deepest images to date from Hubble yield the first statistically robust sample of galaxies that tells how abundant they were close to the era when galaxies first formed. The results show a smooth decline in the number of galaxies with increasing look-back time to about 450 million years after the big bang. The observations support the idea that galaxies assembled continuously over time and also may have provided enough radiation to reheat, or reionize, the universe a few hundred million years after the big bang. These pioneering observations blaze a trail for future exploration of this epoch by NASA's next-generation spacecraft, the James Webb Space Telescope. Looking deeper into the universe also means peering farther back in time. The universe is now 13.7 billion years old. The newly discovered galaxies are seen as they looked 350 million to 600 million years after the big bang. Their light is just arriving at Earth now.

The public is invited to participate in a "First Census of Galaxies Near Cosmic Dawn" webinar, in which key astronomers of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2012 team will discuss how they obtained their result and what it tells us about galaxy formation in the very early universe. Participants will be able to send in questions for the panel of experts to discuss. The webinar will be broadcast at 1:00 pm EST on Friday, December 14, 2012.

To participate in the webinar, please visit HubbleSite Channel on Youtube or Hubble Space Telescope Google+ page .

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Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (Caltech), and the UDF 2012 Team