Before NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope ran out of liquid helium coolant in 2009, it captured stunning infrared views of targets ranging from galaxies to nebulae and everything in between. During the so-called “cold phase” of its extended mission, the observatory studied the Perseus Molecular Cloud on multiple occasions, capturing spectacular views of vast dust clouds with embedded star clusters. Some of those clusters pose a mystery: they seem to contain young, middle-age and old stars in close proximity. Older stars tend to move apart as time passes and finding such closely-packed suns in a mixture of ages is out of step with current ideas about how stars form. Says astrophysicist Luisa Rebull: “This region is telling astronomers that there’s something we don’t understand about star formation. It’s one of my favorite regions to study.”
Astronomers studying the birth of planetary systems in the young (about 2-3 million years old) star forming region IC348 in Perseus as seen by the infrared cameras onboard the Spitzer Space Telescope have found thirteen stars in this complex with detectable discs, none of which is as massive as our early solar system’s disc.
By pushing the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, astronomers have shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the distance to the most remote galaxy ever seen in the universe. The galaxy, named GN-z11, has a redshift of 11.1, which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was only three percent of its current age.
Astronomers harnessing the combined power of NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have found the faintest object ever seen in the early universe. It existed about 400 million years after the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago. The new object is comparable in size to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a diminutive satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.