Hubble Sees the Universe in a New Light
News story originally written on October 9, 1998
Scientists have been able to look farther into space than ever before
by using a newly installed instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope. The
Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has been used
to gather light from galaxies that could be over 12 billion light-years
"This observation is a major step toward fulfilling one of Hubble's key
objectives: to search for the faintest and farthest objects in the
universe," said Ed Weiler, NASA's acting Associate Administrator for
The new camera has been used to observe distant objects in greater detail
than is present in the Hubble Deep Field
image created with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2).
The WFPC2 takes pictures using visible light while the NICMOS uses
infrared light. Infrared images are necessary to see deep into space
because distant objects are moving away from us very fast and the light
they emit is red-shifted
object that normally would emit visible light if it were stationary
actually will emit infrared light when it is moving away from us.
"This is just our first tentative glimpse into the very remote universe,"
says Alan Dressler of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA. "What
we see may be the first stages of galaxy formation. But the objects are
so faint that their true nature can only be explored with the advanced
telescopes of the future."
The future may only be nine years away. The Next Generation Space
Telescope (NGST) is scheduled for launch in 2007. It will be able to take
higher-resolution pictures of these distant objects and possibly confirm
their distance from us.
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