Scientists outlining four concepts for a powerful new space telescope that could launch in the 2030s this week said improvements in optics, detectors and access to huge new rockets like NASA’s Space Launch System could revolutionize the way astronomers observe potentially habitable planets, black holes, and the earliest galaxies in the Universe.
ESA’s Planck satellite has revealed that the first stars in the universe started forming later than previous observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background indicated. This new analysis also shows that these stars were the only sources needed to account for reionising atoms in the cosmos, having completed half of this process when the universe had reached an age of 700 million years.
Hubble Space Telescope observations have taken advantage of gravitational lensing to reveal the largest sample of the faintest and earliest known galaxies in the universe, formed just 600 million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers have determined, for the first time with some confidence, that these small galaxies were vital to creating the universe that we see today.
An international team of astronomers has pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age with the discovery of an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion light-years from Earth. The galaxy existed so long ago, it appears to be only 100 million years old.