- News Home
17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
The Edge of Space
30 December 1998 5:00 pm
Astronomers from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, have won a race to the edge of the universe. After 3 weeks of working around the clock on infrared data from the Hubble Space Telescope, they may have shattered previous records for the most distant stars and galaxies, pushing the frontier of the visible universe to distances so great that they are seen just a few hundred million years after the big bang. "We knew other groups were working on the same data," says one of the astronomers, Ken Lanzetta, "so there was a lot of hurry."
Together with his Stony Brook colleague Amos Yahil and others, Lanzetta analyzed data from a very small patch of sky in the southern constellation Tucana, where the Hubble gathered light for 10 straight days last October. NASA released data from this observation, called Hubble Deep Field South, on 23 November. By 18 December, the team had published its results on the Internet: a catalogue of 323 distant galaxy candidates, along with their redshifts--a measure of distance and, hence, age.
Lanzetta and Yahil claim to have found 14 galaxies with redshifts between 5 and 10, and another five candidates with redshifts larger than 10--almost twice the previous record holder of 5.64. At a redshift of 10, galaxies are seen when the universe was only 9% of its current size and probably just a few hundred million years old. "We are getting back to a significant fraction of the age of the universe," says Yahil. If he and Lanzetta are right, galaxies and stars formed much earlier in cosmic history than most theorists had imagined.
There is a catch, however. Because the galaxies are extremely faint, Lanzetta and Yahil deduced redshifts with "photometric" techniques that are considered less reliable than traditional spectrum measurements. "You have to have a lot of faith at these high redshifts," says Charles Steidel of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who pioneered the photometric redshift technique a few years ago.