The way things were, 12.8 billion years ago

High-resolution optics reveal sharpest ever image of the early universe.

HP1, some of the oldest stars in the neighbourhood, captured by the Gemini Observatory.

Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF; composite image produced by Mattia Libralato of Space Telescope Science Institute

Extraordinary high-quality images from the Gemini Observatory – actually, two separate facilities in Chile and Hawaii – have revealed in unprecedented detail one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way.

Known as HP1, the cluster dates back to just a billion years after the Big Bang.

“This star cluster is like an ancient fossil buried deep in our galaxy's bulge, and now we've been able to date it to a far-off time when the universe was very young,” says astronomer Stefano Souza, at the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.

“These are also some of the oldest stars we’ve seen anywhere.”

Further details of the research are presented in a paper in the journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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