Postcards From the Edge

Drumroll, please: now, at last, almost five years after it sidled into earth's orbit, and one year after space-walking astronauts surgically repaired its myopia, the Hubble Space Telescope is finally snaring images from near the beginning of time. With a clarity unmatched by ground-based telescopes, these postcards from the edge are convincing even the most rabid anti-big-science researchers that Hubble might be worth the $1.5 billion it cost to develop and launch after all. Last week three separate teams announced the arrival of images that had started their journeys 12 billion, 9 billion and 5 billion years ago (or thereabouts: these cards arrive with ambiguous postmarks). The latest findings: