Newly published in Nature is a study announcing the discovery of a galaxy that, at a distance of 30 billion light-years away, is the furthest ever confirmed by astronomers. It was found by the Hubble Space Telescope and verified by Hawaii’s Keck Observatory, and its distance was determined by color analysis: Because light waves grow more stretched with distance, objects appear redder than they are. On a scale that measures this “redshift,” the galaxy — which has been given the easy-to-remember name of z8_GND_5296 — comes in at 7.51, beating the previous record-holder’s value of 7.21.
What’s the Big Idea?
From our vantage point, we are seeing this new galaxy as it appeared over 13 billion years ago. Even more important is that this is an estimated 700 million years after the Big Bang. Current observations show that the galaxy is producing new stars at a remarkably high rate, giving astronomers insights into the happenings going on when the universe was still relatively new. Lead researcher and University of Texas-Austin professor Steven Finkelstein says that even more distant galaxies will be found once more powerful telescopes arrive, including the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch later this decade.
“The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti