Astronomers have just broken a 20-year record and have observed what is to date the most distant radio galaxy that has ever been detected. The international team that made the remarkable new discovery was headed up by Ph.D. student Aayush Saxena and includes astronomers from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Italy, and the Netherlands.
According to the International Business Times, researchers discovered this far-flung radio galaxy using the Giant Meter Wave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India and confirmed their findings with the use of the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona and the Gemini Telescope in Hawaii.
The new radio galaxy that was found is located a whopping 12 billion light-years away from Earth and came into being when the universe was just 7 percent of the age that it is now.
By studying the redshift of this distant galaxy, which was calculated to be z = 5.72, astronomers are able to gaze directly into the past as the light they are seeing is light that has taken 12 billion years to reach us.
Determining a galaxy’s redshift is incredibly useful to astronomers as they can learn the distance of a galaxy by calculating what its redshift is. If a galaxy is extremely far away from Earth, it will also be seen to be moving far away from us with incredible speed, which causes the light emitted from these galaxies to be much redder than it would normally be.
Radio galaxies themselves are not terribly common and are enormous galaxies with black holes sitting in their center that continue to grow by feeding off dust and gas from objects around them.
As astronomers once believed that radio galaxies must surely have formed at a later stage of the universe’s development, radio galaxies such as this one have shocked researchers. The new study’s co-author Huub Röttgering explained that he was dumbfounded to have observed the most distant radio galaxy that has ever been detected.
“Bright radio galaxies harbor super-massive black holes. It is amazing to find such objects as early in the history of the Universe: the time for these supermassive black holes to form and grow must have been very short.”
Lead author Saxena also noted that “it is very surprising that these galaxies have built their mass in such a short period of time.”
The new study on the discovery of the most distant radio galaxy that has ever been observed has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.