BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Researchers discovered an incredibly old and distant galaxy which formed not so long after the birth of the universe. The amazing cosmic object is around 13.1 billion years old and it formed only 700 million years after the Big Bang.
The researchers called this new galaxy MACS1423-z7p64 and published their findings in the Nature Astronomy journal. They were able to spot it with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope. Then, they established its exact position and age with the tools from the Keck Observatory, Hawaii.
An old and distant galaxy is brighter
Such old and distant galaxies might be easier to spot. If you compare them with regular galaxies, they are brighter and you get to see them more rarely. Thus, when one comes up, it might be hard not to recognize it. This is a typical characteristic for all galaxies which belong to this category.
Far-away galaxies are also close to the birth of the universe. This places them during an interesting period, when the universe turned transparent. The period is situated several billions of years after the Big Bang, and it is called the Epoch of Reionization.
Why the Epoch of Reionization?
Soon after the Big Bang, the universe was only formed of atomic hydrogen. This mass of hydrogen was opaque and it blocked the light. Then, the first stars and galaxies materialized out of this hydrogen cloud. They started emitting light and a ionizing radiation.
The force of the radiation was enough to disperse the hydrogen cloud, which disappeared just like fog. Then, the light of the primordial galaxies invaded the universe. However, there were many objects which remained trapped in the fog.
Researchers received a little help from another galaxy when they spotted this distant object in the sky. A galaxy cluster passed in front of MACS1423-z7p64 and it acted as a lens, magnifying its image. Gravity affects these objects just like a lens does with a ray of light. Thus, it became visible even if situated at such a huge distance.
By performing more measurements with the equipment from the Keck Observatory, the researchers could be sure of the position of the galaxy. They hope that they will be able to study even more distant objects after they launch the advanced new telescope, James Webb Space Telescope, in 2018.
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