U.S. astronomers using the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope reported Wednesday they had seen what they think is the birth of the very first stars in the universe.
They said they had mapped nearly 2,000 objects that look very much like the first stars in the process of forming - and said they looked so old that they must be from the first few million years of the universe."We found objects that are very distant and therefore very far back in time and very possibly the first generation of stars forming," Kenneth Lanzetta, an astronomer at State University of New York at Stony Brook, said in a telephone interview.
"What we are really seeing are tiny clumps of stars that are probably related to the progenitors of galaxies."
Lanzetta said the Hubble telescope, which can see more clearly than ground-based telescopes because it is out in space, spent 10 days "staring at one patch of the sky" to produce a very deep image.
His team, which included researchers at the University of Cantabria in Spain, reported their findings in the science journal Nature.
They said the light from the objects is highly red-shifted, which means it is distorted into the red range of the spectrum of visible light. This in turn means it must have traveled very far.
Light changes in frequency just like sound does to produce an effect similar to the Doppler effect, heard when a train approaches and goes by.
Lanzetta said the objects offered a glimpse of the universe as it was at just 5 percent of the age it is now. The earliest previous observations were at 15 percent.