Utilizing the Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers have discovered a cluster of developing galaxies an astonishing 13.1 billion light-years from Earth, making the galaxy clusters the oldest and most distant galaxy clusters ever observed.
Discovered during a near-infrared light spectrum sky survey of distant galaxies, the cluster of five galaxies, shown in the image above, existed just 600 million years after the big bang. In cosmic terms, that makes each of the five galaxy clusters newborn babies, so to speak.
“These galaxies formed during the earliest stages of galaxy assembly, when galaxies had just started to cluster together,” Michele Trent, of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom said in a statement “The result confirms our theoretical understanding of the buildup of galaxy clusters. And, Hubble is just powerful enough to find the first examples of them at this distance.”
Astronomers say that the galaxies within these clusters are about a tenth of the size of our own Milky Way galaxy, but are actually just as bright as our own galaxy. This is the result of galaxies feeding on a large amount of materials and gas from the merging of galaxies within the clusters.
While the galaxies may appear to be relatively small as they’re observed today, scientists expect that the galaxies have likely gotten much larger 13.1 billion years later, and may even be the same size, if not bigger than, the Milky Way.