Sarah Keegan Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

July 7, 1994 (Phone: 202/358-1547) Jim Elliott Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: 301/286-6256) Ray Villard Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md. (Phone: 410/338-4154) RELEASE: 94-109 HUBBLE DETECTS PRIMORDIAL HELIUM IN THE EARLY UNIVERSE An international team of astronomers has used the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Faint Object Camera (FOC) on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to confirm a critical prediction of the Big Bang cosmological theory -- that the chemical element helium should be widespread in the early universe. The detection of this helium by HST may mark the discovery of a tenuous plasma that fills the vast volumes of space between the galaxies -- the long-sought after intergalactic medium. The new findings also shed light on the physical conditions that existed in intergalactic space at a time when the universe was only a tenth of its present age, and quasars and galaxies had only recently formed. The discovery follows from work done by a team of European astronomers, led by ESA's project scientist for the FOC, Dr. Peter Jakobsen. The FOC was used as a spectrograph to analyze the ultraviolet light received from a very distant quasar. Reporting in the July 7, 1994, issue of the British science journal Nature, the group describes how the helium was detected in the light of a remote celestial body, a quasar, located in the constellation of Cetus at a distance so great that its light has

taken some 13 billion years, or 90% of the age of the universe, to get to us. -more-2By showing that significant amounts of helium existed in the early universe at a time when it was only a tenth as old as today, the discovery reaffirms the explanation of the formation of the chemical elements in the universe. Hydrogen and helium were formed in the first three minutes after the Big Bang by reactions between the primordial protons and neutrons. The heavier elements (carbon, oxygen, silicon, iron, etc.,) came only later through nuclear reactions in the centers of stars. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA. The scientific team responsible for this research includes Drs. Peter Jakobsen of ESA/ESTEC, The Netherlands; Alec Boksenberg of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, U.K.; Jean-Michel Deharveng of Laboratoire d'Astronomie Spatiale, France; and Perry Greenfield, Robert Jedrzejewski and Francesco Paresce, all working on the ESA FOC at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md. -endNOTE TO EDITORS: For more details on this finding, please refer to ESA Press Information Note 17-94, available in the U.S. from the Washington, D.C., ESA office: 202/488-4158. For specific technical information, media representatives may call: In the U.S., Dr. Francesco Paresce (ESA/STScI) 410/338-4823; In The Netherlands, Dr. Peter Jakobsen (ESA/ESTEC) 31171983614. For general background information, media representatives may call: Dr. Edward Weiler (NASA) 202/358-0351.