We’re used to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope sending us back incredible images of the Universe, but this unassuming blob is one of the most fascinating because it is the oldest galaxy seen by the telescope yet.
Located in the constellation of Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear or Big Dipper, the infant galaxy GN-z11 is seen as it was just 400 million years after the Big Bang – that’s whopping 13.4 billion years ago!
“We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble,” says principal investigator Pascal Oesch of Yale University.
Hubble spectroscopically confirms farthest galaxy to date (© NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI))
To put things into perspective, the previous most distant galaxy was 13.2 billion years in the past, which makes GN-z11 nearly 200 million years closer to the Big Bang. “This new record will likely stand until the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope,” according to investigator Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University.
It may be a young galaxy in the grand scheme of things, but it is growing up fast and despite being only 1 per cent the mass of our galaxy it is forming new stars 20 times quicker. That’s what makes it bright enough to be spotted by current technology.
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