Astronomers Discover Most Distant Galaxy Yet, 13.1 Billion Light Years Away
Astronomers have discovered the most distant galaxy to date. Named z8_GND_5296, the galaxy is 13.1 billion light years away. It is also the oldest galaxy discovered by researchers.
Researchers announced the discovery of the galaxy in the scientific journal Nature on Oct. 23. A “light year” is the distance light travels in a year, or about 6 trillion miles.
According to the paper, the galaxy was formed around 700 million years after the Big Bang. Each year the galaxy forms around 300 solar masses. A single solar mass is equal to the Sun. That would mean the galaxy created around 300 times more solar masses than the Milky Way.
The Hubble Space Telescope has imaged over 100,000 galaxies and z8_GND_5296 was identified as possibly the farthest away out of 43 possible contenders.
After identifying the 43 farthest galaxy’s researchers used the Keck telescope in Hawaii to determine the most distant using “redshift.” Study co-author Casey Papovich from Texas A&M University explains why the redshift is examined: “Until you have a redshift, there is always some doubt about the exact nature of the galaxy.”
The more distant a galax, the more its light moves into the red spectrum, hence the name “redshift.” If the redshift is higher the galaxy is further away. The z8_GND_5296 galaxy discovery has a redshift of 7.5. The previous record holder had a redshift of 7.2.
Current telescope technology is capable of finding galaxy’s up to a redshift of 10. That would place those galaxies at around 350 million years after the Big Bang.
“Next generation facilities” such as the James Webb Space Telescope are expected to see even further into our Universe’s past.
New galaxies, planets, suns, and other discoveries are being made at record pace these days. We have a feeling an even older galaxy will soon be discovered, maybe even before next generation telescopes are finally debuted.