Discovered: the galaxy that's so far away we're seeing it as it was 13 billion years ago

Scientists detected z8-GND-5296 with help of Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Telescope in Hawaii

Science Editor

Astronomers have detected the furthest known galaxy in the Universe which is more than 13 billion light years away on the very edge of space.

Because of the time it takes for its light to reach Earth, the galaxy is seen today as it was just 700 million years after the Big Bang - the primordial event that created the Universe some 13.8 billion years ago.

Scientists detected the galaxy - known as z8-GND-5296 - with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope parked in geostationary orbit and the Keck Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

They searched a library of about 100,000 of the most distant galaxies before finding that one of them could be accurately positioned in space by analysing the infrared light it had emitted.

A spectroscopic analysis of the galaxy's wavelength showed how much it has shifted to the red end of the spectrum. This "redshift", and the known expansion velocity of the Universe, was used to measure the galaxy's precise distance from Earth.

"What makes this galaxy unique, compare to other such discoveries, is the spectroscopic confirmation of its distance," said Bahran Mobasher of the University of California, Riverside and a member of the research team.

"By observing a galaxy that far back in time, we can study the earliest formation of galaxies. By comparing properties of galaxies at different distances, we can explore the evolution of galaxies throughout the age of the Universe," Dr Mobasher said.

At this particular point in its early history,  the z8-GND-5296 galaxy was producing new stars at a rate of about 300 a year, which is about 100 times faster than our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

There is only one other known object to be further away in space - a massive star that had exploded some 70 million years earlier. The period before this is known as the "cosmic dark ages" because so little is known about it.

Astronomers believe they are close to finding the first galaxies that were probably responsible for the transition from an opaque Universe, when much of its hydrogen was neutral, to a translucent Universe, when the hydrogen became ionised - called the Era of Re-ionisation.

Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin, who led the project, said the new galaxy is in the same region of the sky as the previous record holder.

"So we're learning something about the distant universe. There are way more regions of very high star formation than we previously thought. There must be a decent number of them if we happen to find two in the same area of the sky," Dr Finkelstein said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before