Friday, February 4, 2011

Hubble Ultra Deep Field; Kepler-11

* Peering back to the Big Bang...

Last week astronomers announced in Science that they have found what might be the oldest object ever observed in the universe, a galaxy known as UDFj-39546284 in a part of the heavens known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

The galaxy appears to have born just 480 million years after the Big Bang, i.e., some 13 billion years ago.

What a glorious discovery! Piercing the veils of night to find the Old Ones, original star stuff.

* Finding new worlds....

Also last week another group of astronomers, analyzing data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, announced in Nature the discovery of over 100 Earth-size planets in other solar systems.

My favorite so far is a clutch of six planets circling a star called Kepler-11, c. 2,000 light-years away. Five of the six may have atmospheres, although none of them appear capable of supporting life.

These discoveries (we only found the first exo-planets in 1995) make our Earth a little less lonely. Just knowing we have siblings, however remote and however silent, brings extra cheer to the canary.

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