Astronomers Discover Oldest, Most Distant Galaxy

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Sept. 20 2012 6:30 PM

Astronomers Discover Oldest, Most Distant Galaxy

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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.

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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.