When searching for early galaxies, it pays to look twice

Infant stars
Infant stars (pink) in the Serpens region, captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (only somewhat relevant, but still cool).

Using NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, an international team of astronomers have found nine of the smallest, faintest, most compact galaxies ever observed in the early universe–the building blocks of today’s larger, older galaxies. Composed of millions of brilliant blue stars, each infantile galaxy is one-hundredth to one-thousandth as large as our Milky Way galaxy. They formed about 12.5 billion years ago – just 1 billion years after the “Big Bang.”

Such galaxies are consistent with the conventional model of galactic formation, which holds that larger galaxies are formed when younger, smaller, less-massive galaxies merge. The sighting thus offers some much-needed support for the “hierarchical model,” which has become ever more contentious in recent years.

ASU astronomers help locate obscure galaxies

Geneticists get the skinny on fat-control gene

Queensland fruit fly
Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni). Photo by James Niland.

A gene identified over 50 years ago in fruit flies could provide a valuable weapon in the battle of the bulge. The gene, which influences which fruit flies are svelte and which ones are zaftig, is found in humans as well. Whether it will one day lead to the mythical “skinny pill,” however, remains anyone’s guess.

Scientists find ‘skinny’ gene’s value

From the Shire to the Smithsonian: Placing hobbits on the human family tree

Skull of a Homo floresiensis
Homo floresiensis. Photo by Ryan Somma.

J.R.R. Tolkien may have talked up their hairy feet, but it’s hobbits’ wrists that interest anthropologists. In this article, I look at how an international team of researchers used Arizona State University’s cutting-edge imaging technology to crack the mystery of Homo floresiensis, a three-foot-tall, 18,000-year-old skeleton nicknamed the “hobbit.”

ASU PRISM shines new light on “hobbit”

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