Astronomers using the Hubble space telescope have discovered a new galaxy that has shattered all records for how far we have seen into outer space. The newly discovered galaxy was formed just 400 million years after the Big Bang. The galaxy, called GN-z11, is more than 13.4 billion light years away. One light-year is about 5.8 trillion miles. It is located in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major.
It was first spotted by Hubble two years ago
The Hubble telescope first spotted this hot, star-popping galaxy about two years ago in a deep-sky visible light survey. At the time, astronomers said they were seeing something really far away, at a distance of about 13.2 billion light years away. But further observation revealed that it was farther away than previously estimated. Astronomers employed a unique technique to find the light wave signatures of the distant galaxy.
Findings of the study were published Thursday in the Astrophysical Journal. “We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble,” said lead author Pascal Oesch of Yale University. If we go back in time and near the galaxy GN-z11, we would see “blue, stunning, really bright young stars” and “messy looking objects” that were galaxies just forming, said co-author Garth Illingworth at the University of California Santa Cruz.
GN-z11 is bright blue in color
To measure the distance, astronomers calculated the redshift or how much the light changes from blue to red. The shift of the galaxy’s light to redder wavelengths directly corresponds to the distance photons have traveled before reaching the Hubble telescope. The newly discovered galaxy has a redshift of 11.1. Prior to this, the highest redshift was 8.68 or 580 million years after the Big Bang.
Astronomers used that light signature to produce an image of the galaxy. Though the galaxy is bright blue in reality, its light has traveled so long and so far that it has shifted to the end of the color spectrum to look dark red. GN-z11 is 25 times smaller than Milky Way, but has a mass one billion times that of the Sun.