An international team of astronomers led by Yale University and the University of California-Santa Cruz have pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5% of its present age. The team discovered an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion years in the past and determined its exact distance from Earth using the powerful MOSFIRE instrument on the W.M. Keck Observatory’s 10-meter telescope, in Hawaii. It is the most distant galaxy currently measured.
The galaxy, EGS-zs8-1, was originally identified based on its particular colors in images from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. It is one of the brightest and most massive objects in the early universe. Age and distance are vitally connected in any discussion of the universe. The light we see from our Sun takes just eight minutes to reach us, while the light from distant galaxies we see via today’s advanced telescopes travels for billions of years before it reaches us—so we’re seeing what those galaxies looked like billions of years ago.
“It has already built more than 15% of the mass of our own Milky Way today,” said Pascal Oesch, a Yale astronomer and lead author of a study published online May 5 in Astrophysical Journal Letters. “But it had only 670 million years to do so. The universe was still very young then.” The new distance measurement also enabled the astronomers to determine that EGS-zs8-1 is still forming stars rapidly, about 80 times faster than our galaxy. Source: Astronomers unveil the farthest galaxy