The telescopes get bigger and more sophisticated, the light we can see comes in from deeper in the cosmos, and the most-distant visible objects keep getting further away. Last October astronomers using Hubble Space Telescope data reported sighting a possible galaxy some 13.2 billion light years away. That sighting is still awaiting confirmation as a galaxy, and in the meantime it has some competition in a galaxy discovered by scientists at the Subaru and Keck Telescopes that has, for the time being, seized the title of most distant known galaxy.
Does the image above look familiar? It shouldn't, because it's brand new. But the subject should certainly ring a bell for any space buff - it's the same vast nebula that became one of the most beloved, coffee-table-booked, computer-wallpapered images in astronomical history. This new image of the Eagle Nebula shows the value of having space observatories that span the light spectrum.
The Hubble Space Telescope has sniffed out evidence of complex carbon molecules, the building blocks of life in this corner of the cosmos, lying on the frozen surface of Pluto. The distant dwarf world is known to harbour methane ice and other frigid compounds, but this is the first time scientists have suggested there could be other complex carbon chemicals, too.
Black holes, while sounding big and fearsome, are in fact, tiny. So small that they cannot be observed at all. Their huge mass, thanks to their previous lives as high flying, supermassive stars, plus their tiny size is what makes their gravitational influence so great. What this means for science is that the only way to learn about black holes is by watching how they affect surrounding matter, but even that can be difficult. However, a team of researchers have made use of the Hubble Space Telescope and, you know, a giant lens made of suns to study the accretion disc of a quasar to minute levels of detail.
The world's largest astronomical facility has opened its eyes, turning nearly two dozen antennae toward the heavens to study the building blocks of the cosmos. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array consists of 20 radio antennae for now, but will contain 66 by 2013, giving it a higher resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope.