Astronomers Find Most Distant Galaxy Ever Measured

This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of the farthest confirmed galaxy observed to date (inset). The near-infrared image of the galaxy (inset) has been colored blue as suggestive of its young, and hence very blue, stars. (PHOTO CREDIT: NASA, ESA, P. OESCH AND I. MOMCHEVA (YALE UNIVERSITY), AND THE 3D-HST AND HUDF09/XDF TEAMS
This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of the farthest confirmed galaxy observed to date (inset). The near-infrared image of the galaxy (inset) has been colored blue as suggestive of its young, and hence very blue, stars. (PHOTO CREDIT: NASA, ESA, P. OESCH AND I. MOMCHEVA (YALE UNIVERSITY), AND THE 3D-HST AND HUDF09/XDF TEAMS

Talk about a galaxy far, far away.

Using data from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and the Keck I 10-meter telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, an international team of astronomers, led by Yale University and University of California scientists, identified what they believe is the most distant galaxy ever measured.

“Every confirmation adds another piece to the puzzle of how the first generations of galaxies formed in the early universe,” Pieter van Dokkum of Yale, a second author of the study, said. “Only the most sensitive telescopes are powerful enough to reach to these large distances.”

Named EGS-zs8-1, the galaxy, astronomers believe, is one of the brightest and biggest objects in the early universe. The scientists say the galaxy formed between 400 million and 600 million years after the Big Bang, at a time when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age of 13.8 billion years.

The discovery shows the power of Hubble and the other telescopes to push the frontiers of space and builds on the identification of distant galaxies uncovered in 2013 and 2012.

“One of the most dramatic discoveries from Hubble and Spitzer in recent years is the unexpected number of these very bright galaxies at early times close to when the first galaxies formed,” said Garth Illingworth, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and a co-author on the paper describing the discovery that appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. “We still don’t fully understand what they are and how they relate to the very numerous fainter galaxies.”

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SOURCE: CBS News, Michael Casey

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