Astronomers have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe distant clouds of star-forming gas from just 800 million years after the Big Bang. The findings represent the first time that the objects have been seen as anything more than just faint blotches, and the new data from the observations is set to significantly impact our understanding of the early Universe.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has succeeded in imaging star formation regions in a distant galaxy, with a resolution six times greater than that achievable by the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy, dubbed HATLAS J090311.6+003906 or SDP.81, would ordinarily be far too distant to be observed in such impressive detail. However, thanks to an amazing cosmic coincidence, it has fallen foul of a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, which essentially grants astronomers the opportunity to gaze into the distant past.