Hubble Spots a Galaxy Born 13 Billion Years Ago

By Eliza Strickland | October 20, 2010 3:51 pm

most-distant-galaxyFrom Phil Plait:

The record for the most distant object in the Universe ever seen has been smashed: a galaxy has been found at the staggering distance of 13.1 billion light years!

It’s so dim that the faintest star you can see with your unaided eye is 4 billion times brighter. Its distance is simply numbing; the Universe itself is only 13.7 billion years old, so the light from this object began its journey on its way to Earth just 600 million years after the Universe itself formed.

Head to the full post at Bad Astronomy for all the details about how astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to find this faraway galaxy, and what the discovery tells us about the infant universe.

Related Content:
Bad Astronomy: The Universe Is 13.73 +/-.12 Billion Years Old
Bad Astronomy: New burst vaporizes cosmic distance record
80beats: Hubble Spies Baby Galaxies That Formed Just After the Big Bang
DISCOVER: Happy Birthday Hubble: The Telescope’s Most Underrated Images

  • peachy

    ha. take that creationists!

  • Hak An

    I am a creationists !
    Give it to me…
    In the matter of relativity, i wonder what happened to the rest of the 600 million years (13,7 – 13,1) ???

    ha. take that big-bang’ers !

  • VIP

    Dear Phil Plait, please let your readers know how you figured out that the universe is 13.1 billion years old. And while you’re at it, let them know what was there before. I’ve never heard such nonsense before.

  • Don Mc

    There are time problems for creationists and Big Banger’s here. If this galaxy is 13.1 billion light years away, then it was formed to the extent we are now seeing 13.1 billion years ago. So, was it formed completely in only 600,000,000 years? Is it at the very center of the universe? How far did it travel in 600 Million years?

    The more we see, the less we know. (I am a creationist too!)

  • Richard D. Stacy

    Two questions:

    1. Does light slow down over these vast distances, and, if so, could this explain the large red shift values ?

    2. As the Hubble telescope is the “Model T” of such instruments, will the next generation of this genre of telescopes see even beyond 13.1 billion light years ?

  • fatkid

    What’s with the churchy types on a science blog anyway? For the sake of argument lets just say that the Devil actually did plant those dino bones to lead us astray, then.. Ah forget it.

  • Seroska

    The fanatics of the Christian denominations of the world have no place on a science blog… The science explaining the evolution of the universe is not so simple, that any ignorant or uneducated person (such as many arrogant creationists) can just understand it.

    Your claims and reasoning resemble those of the wondering mind of a young child and set the intellectual evolution of the human race back, at least, 500 years. Many iconic people have made great achievements in all areas of science, and they did not do it by sitting around thinking up elementary ideas, based on simple childish logic, believing they could pass them off as “intelligent”. They studied for many years, followed by many more years of research…. What qualification do you have again? The 2000 yr old text based on hearsay interpretations of historical events, The Bible, that MOST Christians have not even read nor understand, is not classified as a qualification… nor does it qualify you to argue matters of which you have little, or no, understanding.

    So now I ask you, creationists…(and I’m pure of heart as I say this, because I would honestly like to know, because no religious person has ever been able to answer me this question) What is the VERSE and CHAPTER of the passage in the Bible where God says, definitively, how old our universe is, and where does God mention what came before the universe He created? As scientists, we have answers for these questions… As far as I know, you creationists do not. In the sentiments of “fatkid” Creationists have no place in a science debate unless they actually have something constructive to contribute.

  • Seroska

    For Richard D. Stacy:
    To answer your first question. Light travels at a constant velocity of 300 000 000 m/s through the vacuum of space. The change in the frequency of the light of a moving object (its red or blue shift) is not due to a change in velocity but, instead, it is a consequence of time dilation. Time in the reference frame of the light emitting object passes at a different rate with respect to us as the observers. Since the speed of light cannot supersede 300 000 000 m/s in any reference frame. When this velocity is approached, time behaves differently, resulting in our observation of an increase/decrease in frequency of the light waves, rather than an increase/decrease of it’s velocity. Depending on whether or not this galaxy was moving toward or away from us would determine how time would behave, whether it would “slow down” or “speed up” and hence whether we would observe a red or a blue shift respectively. A better way to understand this is to read a little about Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, it’s the simpler of the 2 theories and fun to imagine out in the real world…. Hope that helps.

  • Shade

    First Seroska it brings down your argument to belittle someone for their beliefs.
    Second, to my mind, and I’m open to an explination, I would assume finding a galaxy so formed 13.1 billion years ago would necessarily change the assumption of the age of the universe yes?
    To explain what I mean (maybe) more clearly: The earth is say, 10,000 years old, if you found bones that were say 9800 years old you wouldn’t assume the the bones belonged to a creature that was walking around on the still cooling crust yes?

  • Darius

    @ Hak An: Inflation silly.

  • JohnMol

    OK, I am one of those churchy types. And I am entirely fine with 13.7 billion years. Because I understand the difference between science and literature. The Bible is an inspiring literary account of origins, not a scientific study.

    If the guy who thought up Genesis 1 had written a scientific study, you would never have seen it, because nobody would have thought in the last 3000 years that it made any sense, so they would have ignored it. Instead, he composed literature that both made sense and carried the essence of the truth.

    Besides, I doubt if the number 13.7 billion could even have been written at that time, because such numbers had never been thought of yet. So, given all that, don’t you find it amazing that somebody so long ago could have thought that everything we see around us could be crafted from a burst of light (A pretty good literary image for the prodigiously high energy of the Big Bang, wouldn’t you say?)? Modern cosmology appears to me to agree with the broad outlines described in Genesis 1.

    Please rein in your prejudice!

    As for Seroska who claims that “we scientists” know what happened before the Big Bang, I think there’s a Nobel Prize in it for you when you write it up for Science.

  • Seroska

    Shade: To find a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away does not change the suggested age of the universe. It’s just a wonderful discovery because it’s the furthest we’ve been able to see thus far. I’m not 100% clear on what you meant about your earth analogy, though.
    To belittle one’s beliefs is wrong I agree, but it is equally so, to belittle the hard work of scientists in attacking their findings based on a lack of understand for the subject matter. (Read earlier comments from creationists) The attacks of the above creationists are analogous to myself exclaiming “God just does not exist” with no explanation or understanding for the foundations on which religion is built.

    I have nothing against creationists and religious people, I do however have something against ignorance. Thats all.

    JohnMol: It takes a person of profound faith to be able to consider the biblical accounts and science hand in hand the way that you do and I have respect for that, however I never suggested that an exact age to the universe should be evident in the bible, only that, if creationists have the mind to criticize these findings, that they must be doing so based on the grounds that their source to this subject (safe assumption being the Bible) offers an alternative. Evidently, it does not. Perhaps, also, I chose the wrong sentence structure but, never did I say scientists know what came before the big bang. There are answers to those questions, theories based on something solid. However, nothing is definitive and probably never will be. What I believe is that the above people should not be so ignorant and naive about these theories when they themselves cannot offer a constructive alternative.

    I can see that you are both open to possible explanations, but clearly there are many who aren’t, and the beauty of science is to be open to extreme possibilities… If one cannot do that, then why enter so boldly into a debate or discussion on a subject one has little or no understanding of and/or has no real intention of engaging any interest in?

  • Corycides

    I agree with Stacey. Can’t wait for the next telescope.

    Ask a scientist to tell you where the center of the universe is. No center? Hmmm. They’ll tell you that’s like asking what’s outside the universe. The “edge” is always 14 billion light years away no matter where you’re at in the universe – live with it. Sort of like the speed of light where, even as you approach light speed, photons are still moving away at 186,000 miles per second. So if a photon is a wavesicle with zero mass, then what’s a photon? Yeah, I know; don’t ask.

    Can’t imagine what ‘sparked the spark’ causing an infinite (?) universe to suddenly arise from a point of “zero size” – give or take a Planck length – and “infinite density”? Don’t ask a scientist; they don’t know either. Concerned about the fact that scientists tell you that time and space didn’t exist before the BB because the math becomes meaningless at a singularity? Don’t worry, just ignore it – they do. Keep this up and next you’ll be wanting to know what triggered inflation! It just was!! Besides, it’s needed in order to explain away all the objections to the big bang and silence the dissenters.

    I give the big bang twenty years at best. Hey, it’s a changing universe. Quantum physics would seem to indicate that there may be an underlying implicate order and that “time” doesn’t exist – at least at the level where particles (our building blocks?) seemingly pop in and out of the universe and apparently don’t even exist without conscious awareness.

    Younger scientists are already talking about the “big bounce”. And if scientists weren’t so totally brainwashed in our universities (try finding a job if you don’t regurgitate the party line), they would be able to give you perhaps a dozen logical reasons (none containing the word “Doppler”) why photons exhibit an apparent red shift over vast distances.

    Can’t explain something? Invent it. Why don’t galaxies fly apart? Must be dark matter. (Is that like ether?) Can’t explain why every force, mass, temperature, etc. is exactly at the precise value for life? Must be a multiverse because the only other choice is God and that’s verbotten.

    Based upon the totally strange and proven weirdness of quantum physics, anything appears possible in this universe (and others) so don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions about what “you KNOW” – and don’t. In truth, we simply don’t know jack and I’d love to come back in the year 3,000. Come to think about it, maybe I will -wherever, whenever, and whatever “back” is…

  • joe

    i believe in creation through evolution. who is to say God did not make the big bang science and religeon are not so contradictive as most would think, in fact i believe that they give support to each other.

  • ArJay

    Sheesh! Creationism is a religious concept which requires BELIEF, and cannot be subjected to scientific processes. It’s like believing in fairies or goblins.
    It’s amazing that so many religious fanatics have responded to this article of scientific observation. I don’t see any claims for or against a god’s existence.
    What bothers me most is that these long-winded writers may be ones who teach young people to believe their way and not be open minded and analytical about the world around us.
    There is no arguing or even discussion with a religious fanatic. They are stuck in their beliefs and will not accept ANY thought contradictory to the dogma in which they are entrenched.
    I feel sorry for these people who would argue that the sky is not blue if its called brown in their bible.

  • joe

    a simple belief in a greater power then ones self does not make a person a religeous fanatic however a belief that such greater power does not exist is i believe in contradiction to science. God is the Author of Science, your attack on those with belief in a higher power only shows your weakness of argument. there is no contradiction between the sciences and
    God therefore.

  • Eliza Strickland

    Can we please knock off the religious debate? This is a science news blog, and it’s not the right forum for this discussion.

    — Eliza, DISCOVER online news editor

  • Walt

    How in the “world” (haha) did this become some sort of theological debate? This is a fantastic scientific discovery! It boggles my little-bitty mind as I try to wrap time/space around it. This is a great acheivement. Let’s not belittle it with medieval rants about who is revolving around whom.

  • Walt

    Seroska, chill out. Don’t get so time/space/religious warped about all this. There will always be fanatics who think the moon landing of July 21, 1969 was faked. There will always be nutcases who write “manifesto”s and kill others in their beliefs. Science is science, math is math, and it cannot nor need not be explained to those who are so blind that they cannot see.
    Where is my Rose-a-roo??

  • Walt

    Oh my goodness! What a well thought out, well written response to all this nonsense!! Damn. I am impressed.
    Debating team? Harvard? And now what? Changing the world, one dollar at a time, their pocket to yours?
    So many questions, so little time/space…….


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