Distant 'star-bursting' galaxy is farthest ever detected

WASHINGTON -- Astronomers say they have discovered a galaxy that is farther away than any previously detected, from a time when the universe was a mere toddler of about 400 million years old.

See Full Article

By employing a different technique, one that that has raised some skepticism, a team of astronomers exposed a time period they'd thought was impossible to observe with today's technology.

They used the Hubble Space Telescope and found the light wave signature of an extremely bright galaxy 13.4 billion light-years away, according to a study published Thursday by Astrophysical Journal. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 million light-years. A light-year is about 5.8 trillion miles.

It shatters old records for distance and time and may remain the farthest that can be seen for years, until a new space telescope is launched, the team of astronomers said.

With that light signature, astronomers were able to produce a photo of this galaxy that's fuzzy and all too deceptive in colour. It appears darkish red and indistinct, when in reality it's so hot it is bright blue, but the light has travelled so long and far that it has shifted to the very end of the colour spectrum.

And that fuzziness masks an incredible rate of star formation that's 10 times more frenetic than our Milky Way, said study co-author Gabriel Brammer, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

"It really is star-bursting," Brammer said. "We're getting closer and closer to when we think the first stars formed ... There's not a lot of actual time between this galaxy and the Big Bang."

If we were back in time and near this galaxy (named GN-z11), we'd see "blue, stunning, really bright young stars" and all around us would be "very messy looking objects" that are galaxies just forming, not the large bright spirals we think of as galaxies, said study co-author Garth Illingworth at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Astronomers measure the distance an object by calculating how much the light changes from blue to red, called redshift. This discovery is of a galaxy with redshift of 11.1; until this discovery, the previous highest redshift was 8.68, about 580 million years after the Big Bang. For a long time, competing teams of astronomers were just trying to reach a redshift of 9, about 550 million years after the Big Bang.

But the new discovery blew all that out of the water, surprising the team that found it, said study lead author Pascal Oesch of Yale.

The way they did it was different than the old methods of using a standard light wave signature marker, with the spectrum measured precisely by ground telescope. Instead, the team looked beyond that bright line to a longer but messier light wave spectrum, using what's considered a rougher tool, Illingworth said.

Competing astronomer Richard Ellis at the European Southern Observatory, who found the previous farthest galaxy, was skeptical. He said the light signatures used by Oesch's teams are "noisier and harder to interpret" and may overlap with competing nearby stars or galaxies. And for GN-z11 to be that visible it would have to be three times brighter than typical galaxies, he said in an email.

Oesch said the team made sure "this was as clean as possible a measurement" with little contamination. He said the technique they used is starting to become standard.

But Oesch, Brammer and Illingworth said not to expect new discoveries farther and older than this one, because they have pushed Hubble to its limit. Only when the next NASA space telescope is launched and operating, probably in 2019, will astronomers see farther.

Astronomer Dimitar Sasselov at Harvard, who wasn't part of the research, called the discovery exciting and interesting: "Seeing and understanding the first galaxies and the first stars is an essential part of our origins story."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Researchers to look at ways of mitigating impact of Arctic oil spills

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- Ottawa and the Manitoba government have announced $4 million in funding for a large-scale research project aimed at helping Canadian companies and agencies be better prepared to mitigate the environmental impact of Arctic oil spills. Source
  • Photos, romance novels inspire computer program's one-of-a-kind songs

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Can an artificial intelligence learn to write songs like a human artist? That's the question researchers at the University of Toronto are trying to tackle, using a library of romance novels and images as inspiration for their computer program. Source
  • Eugene Cernan, last astronaut to walk on moon, dead at 82

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the moon, an experience that he said made him "belong to the universe," died on Monday at the age of 82, the U.S. space agency said. Cernan, who was also the second man to walk in space, died surrounded by his family, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement without providing details. Source
  • Text 911 for help? CRTC holds hearing on upgrading emergency services

    Tech & Science CBC News
    You may one day be able to text 911 for help, send a photo, or even share video of a bad guy fleeing a scene. The next generation of 911 services is the subject of a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing that started Monday. Source
  • Gene Cernan, last astronaut on the moon, dies at 82

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Former astronaut Gene Cernan, the last person to walk on the moon who returned to Earth with a message of "peace and hope for all mankind," died on Monday in Texas following ongoing heath issues, his family said. Source
  • Tecla Shield helps people with physical impairments use mobile devices

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — Mauricio Meza says the problem with using traditional assisted devices for communication is they're expensive and don't always work well. “The kind of device Stephen Hawking uses to communicate (costs) $10,000,” the CEO of Toronto tech start-up Komodo OpenLab Inc. Source
  • Why a Canadian teen joined American youth in suing U.S. over climate change

    Tech & Science CBC News
    All his life, Jacob Lebel has felt a special connection to the land, in rural Quebec where he was born and in Eugene, Ore., where he now lives and farms. Lebel, 19, is passionate about preserving the environment and doing what is necessary to prevent climate change. Source
  • Yukon home to 1st traces of humans in North America 24,000 years ago, research suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Humans may have been living in Yukon's Bluefish Caves 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, new research from the University of Montreal suggests. If confirmed, this would make it the oldest known archeological site in North America, representing the earliest evidence found so far of humans in North America. Source
  • Chin up! Blue Monday is not the saddest day of the year

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A specialist in suicide prevention with Horizon Health says too much is made of Blue Monday, which popular culture suggests is the most depressing day of the year. By early January, references to Blue Monday were already popping up on social media, some as offers of support to people expecting to feel sad on the third Monday of January. Source
  • Academics work to preserve millions of colonial documents in Cuba

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HAVANA -- An American team of academics is racing to preserve millions of Cuban historical documents before they are lost to the elements and poor storage conditions. Many of the documents shed light on the slave trade, an integral part of Cuba's colonial history that was intertwined with that of the United States. Source