News of the WeekAstronomy

Lumpy Infrared Points to Earliest Galaxies

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Science  19 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5444, pp. 1456-1457
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5444.1456b

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Although NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer satellite discovered the infrared glow of the universe's first generation of stars and galaxies, its small infrared telescopes did not have the resolution to pick out any "lumps" that might indicate the structure of these primordial star systems. But two French astronomers announced last week at a meeting near Munich that data from the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory do show lumps in the IR background, presumably caused by large seas of galaxies emitting strongly in the infrared. The observations show that star formation was already intense during the first billion years of the universe's 12-billion-year life, while previous optical observations seemed to indicate that star formation started much later.