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HUBBLE TELESCOPE PUSHES BACK TIME OF GALAXY FORMATION

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THEME:   NATURE, WORLD

By Dan Bart | March 4, 2016 4:02 pm

HUBBLE TELESCOPE SPOTTED MOST DISTANT OBJECT EVER SEEN IN KNOWN UNIVERSE AND IT PUSHED CLOCK BACK ON GALAXY FORMATION

Astronomers said on Thursday, March 3, 2016 they had discovered a galaxy that formed just 400 million years after the Big Bang explosion, the oldest galaxy found to date.

The mysterious red star-system formed when the universe was only 3% of its current age and is at the limits of what the telescope can see.

Astronomers had discovered a galaxy that formed just 400 million years after the Big Bang explosion

Astronomers had discovered a galaxy that formed just 400 million years after the Big Bang explosion

A record 13.4 billion light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major, the galaxy, named GN-z11, was first spotted two years ago in a Hubble Space Telescope deep-sky visible light survey.

At the time, astronomers knew they were seeing something very far away, possibly as distant as 13.2 billion light-years from Earth.

Astronomer Pascal Oesch said: “We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We see GN-z11 at a time when the universe was only three percent of its current age.”

Follow-up observations with an instrument on Hubble that splits light into its component wavelengths revealed that GN-z11 was farther away than initially believed, setting back the galaxy-formation clock by another 200 million years.

Being able to use Hubble to peg the galaxy’s distance was a surprise, said astronomers who will publish their research in next week’s issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Pascal Oesch’ colleague Ivo Labbe, said: “The discovery of GN-z11 shows us that our knowledge about the early Universe is still very restricted. Probably we are seeing the first generations of stars forming around black holes?”

Astronomers said they expected the new distance record to stand until Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is launched in 2018.

Pascal Oesch said, “We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do.

“We managed to look back in time to measure the distance to a galaxy when the Universe was only three percent of its current age.”

Co-author Dr Ivo Labbe, from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, said: “The discovery of GN-z11 showed us that our knowledge about the early universe is still very restricted. How GN-z11 was created remains somewhat of a mystery for now. Probably we are seeing the first generations of stars forming around black holes.”

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