Deepest Space: Hubble Spots the Most Distant Galaxy Ever Seen

By Andrew Moseman | January 27, 2011 10:22 am

Its’ time for another mind-blowing, record-breaking discovery by the Hubble Space Telescope. This time, it’s creeping closer than ever toward the beginning of the universe.

From Phil Plait:

Astronomers have just announced they have discovered what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen, smashing the previous record holder. This galaxy is at a mind-crushing distance of 13.2 billion light years from Earth, making it not just the most distant galaxy but also the most distant extant object ever detected!

Named UDFj-39546284, the galaxy is seen as it was just 480 million years after the Universe itself formed! The previous record holder — which was announced just last October — was 13.1 billion light years away. This new galaxy beats that by 120 million light years, a substantial amount. Mind you, these galaxies formed not long after the Big Bang, which happened 13.73 billion years ago. We think the very first galaxies started forming 200 – 300 million years after the Bang; if that’s correct then we won’t see any galaxies more than about 13.5 billion light years away. Going from 13.1 to 13.2 billion light years represents a big jump closer to that ultimate limit!

For plenty more about this, check out the rest of Phil’s post at Bad Astronomy.

Related Content:
Bad Astronomy: How Deep Is the Universe?
Bad Astronomy: Galaxy Cluster at the Edge of the Universe
80beats: Planck Telescope Searchers the Super-Cold Universe, Finds Neat Stuff

Image: NASA, ESA

  • nick

    And why do we keep talking about “last mission” and “last upgrade” when this instrument still sets the bar? Not only in astronomy but the extreme heavy ballerness of the fixes that have been made on an instrument that wasn’t designed to be maintained. In space, we will have to get used to the idea of extreme recycling and craft longevity if we are to survive there as some speculate we must. Learning early on how to keep such craft fit is a great exercise, and as long as it’s making discoveries, we should figure out ways to keep it flying and/or upgrade it further. It pushes forth the boundaries of two fields.

  • Jim

    The Webb telescope now under development presumably will have even greater power than Hubble. How far back in time will it be able to see?

    Will that device (or perhaps subsequent technology) be able to see back far enough to witness the Big Bang? If so, what do astronomers expect it will look like?

  • Iain

    bad editing

  • Iain

    Uh nick
    Why did Henry Ford eventually abandon the Model T?
    Yes Hubble gave us a lot of great info and pics, but it has had it’s day.
    P.S. I love those pics.

    Uh no, we will never see the big bang.
    1) First of all it was not an explosion as the name would have you believe, it was the expansion of space itself. Think of a bunch of cubes stacked together, then think of all those cubes growing at the same rate at the same time. A poor analogy as it implies a certain ‘graininess’ to space or even an aethor or subaethor but I think you’ll get the idea.
    2) Everything was too hot for photons or other particles we know to exist for several hundred thousands of years (maybe more I don’t remember the number). So the earliest light we’ll get is long, long after the major event.

  • TheCritic

    I love all these ever-present and new discoveries being made in astronomy and space! Sometimes I wish I were born farther in the future when humanity will have a better hold in space, but I have to think that even if I were, I’d only wish that I were born even further past that point, so I make due with the present. I’m always excited to see new posts on this site about new discoveries in space and space tech.

    I know I’m just a conspiracy theorist sometimes, but I really wish that in the near future some benevolent alien species would just stop by and say to us, “Oh, hey, we’ve noticed you guys haven’t quite made it into space very efficiently, yet, so here’s a whole bunch of free technology on us. Don’t go on a murderous rampage with it.” Of course, I know it’s silly. I like to imagine every once in awhile, though.

  • s

    Here’s a thought…

    If the Universe is indeed “balloon shaped”, then are we seeing something close to the center of the balloon, and thus this is an image of a galaxy that was last formed? (ie younger than ours)(the center of the galaxy would have to be the 13.73 nillion ly away)

    If the Universe is more linear and the expansion is throwing us all out into oblivion, then this image is either a universe ahead of us, or a universe behind us.

    If the “brane” theory is in play, then what we are likely seeing is a galaxy that is in proximity to the intersection of the “brane” of our universe and the “brane” of another.

    The article is correct…this is mind-crushing


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