Most distant galaxy detected

The galaxy was found and studied using observations from space and ground-based telescopes.
By Andrew McDonald | May 05, 2015
According to a NASA statement, a new study led by Pascal Oesch of Yale University has identified the most distant galaxy yet recognized. The galaxy in question, EGS-zs8-1, is extremely bright and, due to its immense distance from Earth, appears as it was when the Universe was about 670 million years old, only a fraction of its current age of 13.8 billion years. EGS-zs8-1 appears as a relatively young galaxy, only around a hundred million years old.

Even with such a short window in which to form, EGS-zs8-1 was one of the most luminous and massive objects in the primeval Universe, having already gained 15 percent as much mass as our modern Milky Way galaxy. EGS-zs8-1 was undergoing a period of extremely prolific star formation, around 80 times more rapid than the modern Milky Way.

The initial discovery of EGS-zs8-1 came from observations by NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, which spotted the ancient galaxy thanks to its unique colors. These data, combined with subsequent observations by the new Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration on the Keck 1 telescope in Hawaii, allowed the research team to determine the distance to EGS-zs8-1.

EGS-zs8-1 is one of only a small number of early galaxies with accurate distance measurements. It existed during a crucial time in the Universe's early history. Driven by the new stars forming in galaxies such as EGS-zs8-1, hydrogen between galaxies was changing from being opaque to being transparent, a process known as reionization.

"Every confirmation adds another piece to the puzzle of how the first generations of galaxies formed in the early universe," said second author Pieter van Dokkum of Yale. "Only the most sensitive telescopes are powerful enough to reach to these large distances."

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