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Scientists see 'toddler' Universe through Hubble's eye

The panoramic image taken by Hubble shows myriads of galxies in various stages of formation. Image credit: Hubble

WASHINGTON (AP): The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the earliest image yet of the Universe, just 600 million years after the Big Bang, when the Universe was just a toddler.

Scientists have released the photo at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on Tuesday.

It is the most complete picture of the early Universe so far, showing galaxies with stars that are already hundreds of millions of years old, along with the unmistakable primordial signs of the first cluster of stars.

These young galaxies haven't yet formed their familiar spiral or elliptical shapes and are much smaller and quite blue in colour. That's mostly because at this stage, they don't contain many heavy metals, said Garth Illingworth, a University of California, Santa Cruz, astronomy professor who was among those releasing the photo.

“We're seeing very small galaxies that are seeds of the great galaxies today,” Illingworth said in a news conference.

Until NASA's Hubble telescope was repaired and upgraded last year, the farthest back in time that astronomers could see was about 900 million years after the Big Bang, Illingworth said.

Hubble has been key in helping determine the age of the Universe at about 13.7 billion years, ending a long scientific debate about a decade ago.

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