Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oldest Galaxy Discovered

via Livescience, the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered an incredibly ancient and distant galaxy - likely one of the very first to form after the Big Bang that originated the universe, around 13 million years ago just 700 million years after universe began.

"Since the galaxy is so far away, its light took ages to reach us, so what we see now is a snapshot of how this galaxy looked 13 billion years ago. At that point in time, the galaxy would have been newly formed, so the new observations provide a baby picture.

"We certainly were surprised to find such a bright young galaxy 13 billion years in the past," said astronomer Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz, a member of the research team. "This is the most detailed look to date at an object so far back in time.""

While the Hubble usually can't see such distant and old objects, it got an assist from an unlikely source: the huge mass of the galactic cluster Abel 1869, whose gravity acts as a giant magnifying glass by bending the light from more distant object around it. The new galaxy, called A1689-zD1, is at just the right location for this gravitational lensing to produce the maximum magnification.

Very cool.

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