“More than 12 billion years of cosmic history..”

Close-up of Hubble Ultra-Deep-Space View

Image credit: NASA, ESA, et al. Nasa’s shiny new Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer [WISE] may have just opened its eyes for the first time, but the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope is proving there’s life in the old dog yet. They’ve just released a panoramic, full-color view of thousands of galaxies in various stages of assembly made from mosaics taken in September and October 2009 with the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and in 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). As well as a number of other wondrous images. And, via the Professor, there’s an accompanying NY Times article

The new galaxies, along with other recent discoveries like the violent supernova explosion of a star only 620 million years after the Big Bang, take astronomers deep into a period of cosmic history known as the dark ages, which has been little explored. It was then that stars and galaxies were starting to light up vigorously in larger and larger numbers and that a fog of hydrogen that had enveloped space after the Big Bang fires had cooled mysteriously dissipated.

“These are the seeds of the great galaxies of today,” said Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who discussed the new galaxies last week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington. “We are pushing Hubble to the limit to find these objects.” Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology, one of many astronomers who have been working with the observations, said, “We’re reaching the beginning where galaxies formed for the first time.”

The Swift satellite detection of gamma-rays from an exploding star in a galaxy “only 625 million years after the Big Bang” mentioned in the NY Times article was noted previously – “the last blank bit of the map of the universe”

Here’s the full Hubble image

Hubble Ultra-Deep-Space View

And follow the video into the Hubble image. Video Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)