Most Distant Galaxy: Discovery Offers Peek Into Universe's History

Wednesday, 23 Oct 2013 05:48 PM

By Robin Farmer

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A newly discovered galaxy is the most distant object ever confirmed and gives insight into the early days of the universe.

Astronomers say the galaxy, called z8_GND_5296, is 13.1 billion light-years from Earth, and as a result the oldest one found so far, according to National Georgraphic. A technique that looks for elements such as hydrogen confirmed its presence. It was spotted using the Hubble Telescope and a 10-meter telescope at Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

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The findings were reported by astronomers from the University of California at Riverside in the journal Nature.

Galaxy z8_GND_5296 formed 700 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was in its infancy, CBS News reported.

In addition to its great distance, the newly confirmed galaxy appears to quickly create stars, said CNN.

The rate of star-formation is measured by the amount of raw hydrogen the galaxy converts into new stars annually. The z8_GND_5296 galaxy converts hydrogen in an exorbitant amount compared to the Milky Way.

Scientists say in the first billion years of the universe history, the rate of star formation was high but slowed about 10 billion years ago.

The discovery is important because it helps researchers better understand how the "newborn hot, massive stars and their galaxies transformed the opaque hydrogen fog — which filled the cosmos in the first billion years after the Big Bang — into the transparent intergalactic space we see today," National Geographic reported.

The research team plans to search for more galaxies beginning next month.

"This is just an absolutely exciting time for doing this type of research," UC Riverside's Bahram Mobasher told CBS News, "because the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck telescope, they compliment each other and pave the way for finding more and more of these distant galaxies. By looking, we essentially look back in time. The further away we look, further back in time we look.

"We are at the point where we can study and understand how galaxies form, and we're going to find more distant ones, absolutely."

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