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Japan’s huge Subaru telescope in Hawaii has spotted and captured the images of huge masses of molecular gas, each larger than the Milky Way galaxy, the National Astronomic Observatory of Japan said Thursday.

“The early universe’s gas masses could be the ancestors of existing major galaxies, and the finding may help resolve the origin of the galaxy,” said Tomoki Hayashino, an assistant professor of Tohoku University.

A team of researchers from Tohoku University, Kyoto University, Ehime University and other organizations observed the early universe about 2 billion years since its birth at a spot about 12 billion light years from Earth.

The area has been known to contain many galaxies, but the researchers discovered that the size of the area was four times bigger than previously thought, spanning about 200 million light years. A further observation turned up 33 gas masses, each several times bigger than the Milky Way, the home of our solar system.

Subaru, an optical-infrared telescope with an 8.2-meter mirror, is one of the world’s biggest telescopes. It is near the summit of the 4,205-meter Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii Island. It began operating fully in 2000.

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