Hubble vision shapes up

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The Independent Online
Astronomers believe they are closer to understanding the weird shapes of distant galaxies revealed earlier this year in a picture of the uttermost limits of the visible universe taken by the Hubble space telescope, writes Tom Wilkie.

The photographs (left) show two of the different types pictured by Hubble - the puzzling irregular objects at the left, with spiral galaxies (broadly similar to our own Milky Way) at the right.

Professor Richard Ellis, of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, told the National Astronomy meeting in Liverpool yesterday that a large proportion of the objects in the Hubble deep field survey - the more distant and therefore "younger" galaxies - bore little resemblance to closer galaxies.

Astronomers are debating, he said, as to whether the furthest images might be only fragments of galaxies coming together - many of the irregular lumps may be part of a merging process.

Most of the distant galaxies appear knotty in shape and are involved in star formation. The Hubble pictures are telling astronomers that galaxy formation is a continuous process, Professor Ellis said.

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