Thursday, March 3rd, was a historic day for NASA as well as all humanity. Astronomers reported the discovery of a galaxy that formed just 400 million years after the Big Bang explosion. The newfound galaxy, named GN-z11, is the most distant galaxy found to date.
On the matter, Yale astronomer Pascal Oesch stated: “We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble”.
GN-z11 was actually first spotted two years ago during Hubble Space Telescope deep-sky visible light survey. At the time, astronomers believed they were seeing something, possibly as distant as 13.2 billion light-years from Earth. And they were right in their assumption, only further observation using a specific instrument located on Hubble, which splits light into its component wavelengths, revealed that the galaxy was located even farther than they had estimated.
According to NASA, Hubble’s most recently discovery is now confirmedly located about 13.4 billion light-years from Earth, in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major. It reportedly contains about 1 billion times the mass of the sun and it is about 25 times smaller in size than the Milky Way.
“We’re seeing this galaxy in its infancy. It’s amazing that a galaxy so massive existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the very first stars started to form. It takes really fast growth, producing stars at a huge rate, to have formed a galaxy that is a billion solar masses so soon,”, said astronomer Garth Illingworth from the University of California.
NASA reports that this discovery also has important consequences for their planned Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which will have the ability to find thousands of such bright, very distant galaxies.
Astronomers are confident that the new cosmic record set by Hubble will stand at least until the launch of James Webb Space Telescope, in 2018.