Scientists detect the most distant spectroscopically confirmed galaxy ever found — one created within 700 million years after the Big Bang.
Images © V. Tilvi (Texas A&M), S. Finkelstein (UT Austin), the CANDELS team, and HST/NASA
Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin have teamed up and their research is published in the journal Nature.
Vithal Tilvi, a Texas A&M postdoctoral research associate and co-author of the paper now available online, said:
“It’s exciting to know we’re the first people in the world to see this. It raises interesting questions about the origins and the evolution of the universe.”
The galaxy, known by its catalog name z8_GND_5296, fascinated the researchers. Whereas our home, the Milky Way, creates about one or two Sun-like stars every year or so, this newly discovered galaxy forms around 300 a year and was observed by the researchers as it was 13 billion years ago. That’s the time it took for the galaxy’s light to travel to Earth. Just how mind-boggling is that? A single light year, which is the distance light travels in a year, is nearly six trillion miles. Because the universe has been expanding the whole time, the researchers estimate the galaxy’s present distance to be roughly 30 billion light years away.
Papovich, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said:
“Because of its distance we get a glimpse of conditions when the universe was only about 700 million years old — only 5 percent of its current age of 13.8 billion years.”
The paper’s lead author Steven Finkelstein, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin and 2011 Hubble Fellow, said:
“We were thrilled to see this galaxy. And then our next thought was, ‘Why did we not see anything else? We’re using the best instrument on the best telescope with the best galaxy sample. We had the best weather — it was gorgeous. And still, we only saw this emission line from one of our sample of 43 observed galaxies, when we expected to see around six. What’s going on?'”