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Explanation: Like grains of sand on a cosmic beach, individual stars of barred s

piral galaxy NGC 1313 are resolved in this sharp composite from the Hubble Space
Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The inner region of the galaxy i
s pictured, spanning about 10,000 light-years. Hubble's unique ability to distin
guish individual stars in the 14 million light-year distant galaxy has been used
to unravel the fate of star clusters whose bright young stars are spread throug
h the disk of the galaxy as the clusters dissolve. The exploration of stars and
clusters in external galaxy NGC 1313 offers clues to star formation and star clu
ster evolution in our own Milky Way.

Farthest Galaxy Found, Perhaps

By Clara Moskowitz
Staff Writer
posted: 12 February 2008
11:38 pm ET
Astronomers have glimpsed what may be the farthest galaxy we've ever seen, provi
ding a picture of a baby galaxy born soon after the beginning of the universe.
Images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed the galaxy at almost
13 billion light-years away, making it the strongest candidate for the most dist
ant galaxy ever seen, said European Southern Observatory astronomer Piero Rosati
, who helped make the discovery.
Since the galaxy is so far away, its light took ages to reach us, so what we see
now is a snapshot of how this galaxy looked 13 billion years ago. At that point
in time, the galaxy would have been newly formed, so the new observations provi
de a baby picture.
"We certainly were surprised to find such a bright young galaxy 13 billion years
in the past," said astronomer Garth Illingworth of the University of California
, Santa Cruz, a member of the research team. "This is the most detailed look to
date at an object so far back in time."
The young galaxy, called A1689-zD1, was born about 700 million years after the B
ig Bang that scientists think created the universe. For most of its early life,
the universe languished in "dark ages" when matter in the expanding universe coo
led and formed clouds of hydrogen. Eventually matter began to clump into stars a
nd galaxies that radiated light, heating up the universe and clearing the fog.
Scientists think this newly discovered galaxy may have been one of the first to
form and help end the dark ages.
"This galaxy presumably is one of the many galaxies that helped end the dark age
s," said astronomer Larry Bradley of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead
er of the research team. "Astronomers are fairly certain that high-energy object
s such as quasars did not provide enough energy to end the dark ages of the univ
erse. But many young star-forming galaxies may have produced enough energy to en
d it."
The discovery was made possible by a natural magnifying glass the galaxy cluster
Abell 1689, which lies between us and the distant galaxy. Abell 1689's gravity
is so strong it bends light that passes near it, acting like a giant zoom lens t
hat magnifies what we see.
"This galaxy lies near the region where the galaxy cluster produces the highest
magnification," Rosati said, "which was essential to bring this galaxy within re
ach of Hubble and Spitzer."
The discovery, announced today, will be detailed in the Astrophysical Journal.

by Glen Mackie
Glen Mackie is Lecturer, in the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swin
burne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
... the total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of
sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth. - Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies and
David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences at Cornell University. Pr
ofessor Sagan was a leading popularizer of science and astronomy in particular,
and presented the Cosmos television series and wrote the book (Cosmos, Random Ho
use: New York) based on the series.
Our eyes can only resolve about 5000 of the brightest stars, mostly close to our
Sun, and typically within 1000 light years. (1 light year is the distance light
, travelling with a velocity of 300,000 kilometres per second, covers in 1 year)
Our Galaxy however, is probably greater than 100,000 light years in diameter. He
nce we can resolve only a very small fraction of our Galaxy with our eyes. As we
ll, whilst our view of the brightest stars is a magnificent panorama we do not g
et any sense of depth or relative distances of stars. For example, the two brigh
t stars close together, alpha and beta Centauri, (commonly called The Pointers b
ecause they guide us to the nearby Southern Cross) are at very different distanc
es. Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar (their common names) are 4.3 and 490 light years d
istant, respectively. Hardly neighbours!
The faint smudge of light we call the Milky Way, easily visible on a dark night,
is millions of very faint, distant stars lying in the disk of our Galaxy that o
ur eyes cannot resolve. Dark clouds of dust (microscopic pieces of carbon and si
licon) dimms the light of many more stars. Apart from a few neighbouring galaxie
s (including the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds visible in the southern sky),
that appear as faint, fuzzy blobs of light, our naked eye perception of the uni
verse is very myopic.
Our Galaxy, has approximately 400 billion stars. Carl used this number in the bo
ok based on his Cosmos television series and I'll stick with it. We define a bil
lion as 10 to the power 9, or 1 with 9 zeroes following it, ie. 1,000,000,000. B
ig. Is our Galaxy average? Well, it's a spiral, a little less massive than our m
agnificent Local Group neighbour, Messier 31 in Andromeda. As far as spirals go,
it's probably close enough to average. The other galaxies that exist in the uni
verse, large ellipticals and smaller irregular galaxies, tend to have more and l
ess stars, respectively. I'll assume that, in terms of star numbers, our Galaxy
represents the average galaxy.
What is the total number of galaxies in the universe? Sagan assumed 100 billion.
Is that still valid? Recently the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) surveyed, to the
faintest levels yet detected, a small area of sky. Extrapolating from the numbe
r of galaxies detected by HST to that expected over the whole sky, I calculate 1
30 billion galaxies, slightly larger than Sagans estimate. Then the number of st
ars in the universe is 400 billion x 130 billion, or about 50,000 billion billio
n. A billion billion. That's 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. So, grasp the concept of
a billion billion, then think of 50 thousand of those. Easy!
in three days, our Galaxy had moved another 0.2 billion kilometres towards the V
irgo cluster of galaxies (located 650 billion billion kilometres away)