Astronomers spot most distant galaxy in space (so far!)

At 13.1 billion light years away, galaxy hold’s clues to Big Bang theory

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Astronomers say they have spotted the faint glow of a galaxy 13.1 billion light years from our own, making it the most remote system ever studied.

A European team of astronomers using results from the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) analyzed the very faint glow of the galaxy they say exists when the Universe was only about 600 million years old.   The galaxy, named UDFy-38135539 includes about a billion stars.  

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The system is some 100 million light-years farther than the previous record-holder which astronomers said was a gamma-ray burst.

"Studying these first galaxies is extremely difficult. By the time that their initially brilliant light gets to Earth they appear very faint and small. Furthermore, this dim light falls mostly in the infrared part of the spectrum because its wavelength has been stretched by the expansion of the Universe -- an effect known as redshift. To make matters worse, at this early time, less than a billion years after the Big Bang, the Universe was not fully transparent and much of it was filled with a hydrogen fog that absorbed the fierce ultraviolet light from young galaxies," the researchers stated.  "This is the first time we know for sure that we are looking at one of the galaxies that cleared out the fog which had filled the very early Universe."

The light from UDFy-38135539 galaxy was originally spotted by Hubble in 2009 but the distance from Earth was not fixed till now, astronomers stated.

Astronomers said that one of the surprising things about this discovery is that the glow from UDFy-38135539 seems not to be strong enough on its own to clear out the hydrogen fog. "There must be other galaxies, probably fainter and less massive nearby companions of UDFy-38135539, which also helped make the space around the galaxy transparent. Without this additional help the light from the galaxy, no matter how brilliant, would have been trapped in the surrounding hydrogen fog and we would not have been able to detect it", they stated.

According to the Hubble Web site: The existence of these newly found galaxies pushes back the time when galaxies began to form to before 500-600 million years after the Big Bang. These newly found objects are crucial to understanding the evolutionary link between the birth of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies and the sequence of evolutionary events that resulted in the assembly of our Milky Way and the other "mature" elliptical and majestic spiral galaxies in today's Universe.

This research is presented in a paper, "Spectroscopic confirmation of a galaxy at redshift z=8.6," which was penned by M. D. Lehnert (Observatoire de Paris - Laboratoire, Universite Paris Diderot, France) and many others.

 Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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