The Furthest Galaxy We’ve Seen… So Far
by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
Astronomers have caught a glimpse of the farthest, most ancient galaxy to date, a star factory that was bustling with activity a mere 700 million years after the big bang.
The researchers estimate the galaxy, named z8_GND_5296 and located 13.1 billion years away, formed stars at a rate that was a hundred times more prolific than today’s Milky Way. The find, reported in Nature this week, suggests the early universe may have witnessed more bursts of frenetic star birth than astronomers had thought. The galaxy, photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope and seen, magnified, in the box above, is much brighter than distant galaxies typically are.
Researchers inferred from its red-ultraviolet color that it was rich in “metals”—elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. Because all of those elements originate from fusion reactions in the heart of stars and are spewed out when those stars explode as supernovae, the find suggests that the galaxy had already seen the birth and death of generations of stars by the time the universe was 700 million years old.
(via: Science News/AAAS)
image: V. Tilvi/Texas A&M, S. Finkelstein/UT Austin, The CANDELS team, AND HST/NASA