To a casual observer it could be the psychedelic creation of a mischievous puppy that has dipped its paws in paint. But it may be one of the most extraordinary pictures ever snapped.
It is, scientists said yesterday, the glow from the first things to form in the universe, more than 13 billion years ago. Snapped by NASA’s Spitzer space telescope, the bizarre objects must have existed within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago.
An Australian astrophysicist, Ray Norris, said the NASA team may have found “the holy grail” of astronomy.
What the ancient objects are remains a mystery. One possibility is stars, the first to light up after the dawn of time. They would have been “humungous”, said NASA, “more than 1000 times the mass of our sun”. Or they may be “voracious black holes”. While black holes are invisible, heat emitted by matter plunging into them can be detected.
“Whatever these objects are,” said Alexander Kashlinsky, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, “they are intrinsically incredibly bright and very different from anything in existence today.” The image was made by Spitzer shooting pictures of five areas of the sky. All light from stars and galaxies in the foreground was then removed, leaving only the ancient infrared glow. – smh
Where in the night sky is the dawn of time located? How big is it? Ah, here’s an answer:
“The recent data indicate this patchy light is splattered across the entire sky and comes from clusters of bright, monstrous objects more than 13 billion light-years away.” -caltech
It is located in several clumps spread across the entire sky, so the photo is of one of these clumps. The gray areas are where the stars in front were removed from the picture.