The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed some interesting findings about how stars formed in the aftermath of the Big Bang. With a natural magnifying glass improving the resolution and quality of images taken by Hubble, the images show a series of star-forming knots just 200 to 300 light-years across each other, created in a galaxy found 11 billion light-years away from our sun, or only about 2.7 billion years after the universe was created in the Big Bang.
A report from Space.com goes into detail about this new discovery, which saw the magnifying glass improve image quality to the point that the resulting photos were 10 times sharper than what the Hubble Space Telescope can take on its own.
What’s interesting about the new findings is the proximity of the star-forming knots — studies had once estimated the distance between these knots at about 3,000 light-years across or more, but the images suggest that the regions are about 10 to 15 times closer to each other than once thought.
University of Michigan doctoral student in astronomy Traci Johnson led two of the three studies documenting Hubble’s latest findings, and as she observed in a statement, the star-forming knots were “as far down in size as we can see.”
While the discovery is undoubtedly a fascinating one, one may be wondering why something as powerful as the Hubble Space Telescope would need a special magnifying lens in order to capture even sharper photos.
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As explained in the Space.com report, Hubble needed a gravitational lens for its ability to bend and distort light, thereby allowing the telescope to take a good look at the star-forming knots at a great distance. In this case, the gravitational lens used alongside Hubble magnified the images by almost 30 times, and the researchers had to use a “special computer code” to make the galaxy look more natural by removing the distortions.
According to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center astronomer Jane Rigby, who led the third of the three new Hubble studies, the reconstructed images were quite impressive, to the point that it looked like fireworks were going off in the earliest years of our universe.
“When we saw the reconstructed image, we said, ‘Wow, it looks like fireworks are going off everywhere.”
Aside from the Hubble Space Telescope’s findings detailed above, the iconic telescope was also able to snap a brilliant photo of the galaxy codenamed IC 342, which is much closer to Earth than the above-mentioned galaxy, at about 13 million light-years away. While this should theoretically make it easy for Hubble to snap a good photo, CNET noted that its position in space makes it a rather elusive target for the telescope, hence its “Hidden Galaxy” nickname.
Although IC 342 is obscured by “glowing cosmic gas, bright stars, and dark, obscuring dust,” as described in a press statement from the European Space Agency, the galaxy happens to be very active, thanks to the presence of gas, dust, and forming stars creating a spiral shape right around the middle of the galaxy’s center.
[Featured Image by Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock]