It is a galaxy that, in the cosmic perspective, is a mere infant.
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged a galaxy that formed 13.4 billion years ago, just 400 million years after the Big Bang created our universe.
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“We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We see GN-z11 at a time when the universe was only three per cent of its current age,” said principal investigator Pascal Oesch of Yale University, Connecticut.
Astronomers measure the distance of cosmological objects based on its redshift: light emanates from galaxies as they stretch longer distances, producing redder wavelengths as our universe expands.
Using data collected from the Spitzer space telescope, astronomers have determined that GN-z11 is 25 times smaller than our own Milky Way. It also has just one per cent of our galaxy’s mass in stars. However, GN-z11 is producing stars at a furious rate — 20 times faster than the Milky Way.
The previous record holder for most distant galaxies ever seen was 13.2 billion years old.