Science: Telltale Stars

Finding the oldest galaxies

They look like faint, random smudges on a photographic plate. But for scientists these markings hold a world of meaning. Last week University of California Astronomer Hyron Spinrad and his colleagues announced that the blurs represent four galaxies, great elliptical collections of stars, perhaps even larger than our own Milky Way. More astonishing, they are some 2 billion light-years farther off in space than any other galaxy ever discerned by telescope.

The observations came from the 120-in. reflector at the University of California's Lick Observatory, enhanced by computer technology. To...

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