Astronomers spot the faintest ever galaxy

June 3rd, 2012 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 3 (IANS) Astronomers have now spotted the faintest ever galaxy, among the top 10 most distant objects currently known in space.

The observational data reveal a faint infant galaxy, located 13 billion light-years
away. Light from the galaxy left the object about 800 million years after the beginning of the universe, when the universe was in its infancy.

A team led by astronomers James Rhoads, Sangeeta Malhotra, and Pascale Hibon from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, identified the remote galaxy after scanning a moon-sized patch of sky, The Astrophysical Journal Letters reported.

“This galaxy is being observed at a young age. We are seeing it as it was in
the very distant past, when the universe was a mere 800 million years old,” said
Rhoads, an associate professor in the school, according to an university statement.

“This image is like a baby picture of this galaxy, taken when the universe was only five percent of its current age. Studying these very early galaxies is important because it helps us understand how galaxies form and grow,” added Rhoads.

The galaxy, designated LAEJ095950.99+021219.1, was first spotted in summer
2011. The find is a rare example of a galaxy from that early epoch, and will help
astronomers make progress in understanding the process of galaxy formation.

The find was enabled by the combination of the Magellan telescopes’ tremendous light gathering capability and exquisite image quality, thanks to the mirrors built in Arizona’s Steward Observatory.

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