Posted Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, at 6:30 PM
Photo by NASA via Getty Images
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far, far, far, far away…
Astronomers have discovered the most distant galaxy in the universe—one that was formed when the universe was in infantile 500 million years old.
Finding such a primordial galaxy is no easy feat, as the light from such an ancient source is so dim. But a combination of human engineering and cosmic physics coaxed the remote illumination out into the open. Scientists employed the Hubble Space Telescope and a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Super large objects in space, like giant galactic clusters, are so massive that they bend the fabric of space-time like a lens. Using Hubble to fix on such a cluster, the researchers found the farthest flung galaxy behind it magnified by a factor of 15.
Telescopes are being designed to search for even older galaxies. But for now, this distant cosmic cousin helps close a little more of the gap between here and there.