facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Hubble telescope provides first glimpse of the Milky Way's formative years

Hubble's super resolving power gave astronomers an opportunity to peer at other galaxies and estimate how our own galaxy grew.
By Ananth Baliga   |   Nov. 14, 2013 at 5:08 PM   |   Comments

Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Astronomers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have used the Hubble telescope's deep-sky surveys to give us a glimpse into how the Milky Way may have looked during its formation.

The astronomers studied the evolution of 400 galaxies similar to ours and noted their appearance over a course of 11 billion years. The believe our galaxy began as a faint blue mass of objects containing a lot of gas.

"For the first time, we have direct images of what the Milky Way looked like in the past," said study co-leader Pieter G. van Dokkum of Yale University. "Of course, we can't see the Milky Way itself in the past."

They found that the Milky way was a flat disk with a bulge in the center, which grew into the spiral we see nowadays. The disk contains the Earth and the Sun, while the bulge contains older stars and a huge black hole that grew along with the galaxy.

At the peak of star formation, when the universe was about 4 billion years old, the Milky Way and similar galaxies were forming 15 stars a year. By comparison the Milky Way is creating only one star a year.

"These deep surveys allow us to see the smaller galaxies. In previous observations we could only see the most luminous galaxies in the distant past, and now we can look at more normal galaxies. Hubble gives us the shapes and colors of these spirals as well as their distances from Earth. We also can measure the rates at which each part of the galaxies grew. All of this is difficult to do from the ground," said team member Joel Leja of Yale University.

Follow @antbaliga and @UPI on Twitter.
Contact the Author
© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Android phones to join iPhone in saying no to the police Android phones to join iPhone in saying no to the police
2
Perth's first iPhone buyer immediately drops brand new phone on live TV Perth's first iPhone buyer immediately drops brand new phone on live TV
3
Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India
4
Only 5 billion years until Andromeda Galaxy eats Milky Way Only 5 billion years until Andromeda Galaxy eats Milky Way
5
Tuna fishermen are not happy about proposed marine sanctuary Tuna fishermen are not happy about proposed marine sanctuary
Trending News
Video
x
Feedback