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Published: Sunday, 1/10/2010

Hubble's latest

BABY pictures can be fascinating. In them, we see the raw material of adults to come. An image from the early days of the universe is no different.

NASA just released a photo of how the 13.7 billion-year-old universe looked a mere 600 million years after the Big Bang. The Hubble Space Telescope captured the image after its latest upgrade. Previously, the Hubble was capable of seeing only 900 million years after the Big Bang.

Until NASA launches the $4.5 billion James Webb telescope in 2014, Earthlings are not going to get much further in "viewing" ancient starlight than what Hubble has provided.

The photo reveals a universe that hadn't formed elliptically-shaped or spiral galaxies. The galaxies are small and simple looking. Scientists believe they were the building blocks of the complex night sky today.

But the Hubble isn't the only space telescope making news.

The Kepler Mission launched in March has discovered five new planets larger and much hotter than Earth outside our solar system. These fiery planets join the list of 400 other "exo-planets" discovered in the past decade.

This may not be as titillating as the Tiger Woods scandal, but the news is worth spreading nonetheless, as further confirmation of the strangeness and beauty of our universe.

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