Hidden Galaxies Found Behind Cosmic Fog Veil
ESA's Herschel space telescope has discovered that previously unseen distant galaxies are responsible for a cosmic fog of infrared radiation. The galaxies are some of the faintest and furthest objects seen by Herschel, and open a new window on the birth of stars in the early universe. To date, it is the most sensitive image of the universe taken with Herschel.
Credit: ESA/PEP Consortium

A swarm of distant galaxies hidden behind a pervasive veil of cosmic fog has been seen for the first time by telescope European infrared space telescope.

The newfound galaxies are the furthest and faintest yet spotted by the European Space Agency's Herschel infrared space telescope.

They appear to be very young in the Herschel view, just 16 percent of the age of the universe ? which is about 13.7 billion years old, researchers said. Thousands of stars are forming in the galaxies every year, they added.

"We can use these results to study what controls star formation in these distant galaxies, and how galaxies like our Milky Way formed," said study leader Dieter Lutz, of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany.

The far-infrared Herschel telescope is the first space observatory capable of resolving most of the distant blur of the universe's ubiquitous cosmic infrared background into individual galaxies. In all, Herschel uncovered about 1,100 previously unseen galaxies.

About 300 of the newfound galaxies were spotted in a patch of space previously observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in its Hubble Deep Field north survey. The remaining 800 were hidden behind the wall of infrared radiation in a region observed by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in the Chandra Deep Field South survey.

Both regions were part of the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) that combines the talents of several space telescopes from Europe and the United States in orbit today.

The cosmic infrared background is radiation that can appear opaque to traditional telescopes and a blurry glow to those with infrared optics less powerful than Herschel. It comes from the cold dust of newly-formed star within young galaxies.

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Herschel infrared space telescope in May 2009. The observatory is the largest, most powerful infrared telescope in orbit today.

The discovery of these new galaxies were part of a series of first Herschel findings announced by ESA officials this month.