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

  • Hawaii volcano generates toxic gas plume called laze

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PAHOA, Hawaii -- The eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii sparked new safety warnings about toxic gas on the Big Island's southern coastline after lava began flowing into the ocean and setting off a chemical reaction. Source
  • EU lawmakers to press Zuckerberg over data privacy

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- European Union lawmakers plan to press Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday about data protection standards at the internet giant at a hearing focused on a scandal over the alleged misuse of the personal information of millions of people. Source
  • Rare tiger cub dies at N.B. zoo after being born with health issues

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONCTON, N.B. -- A rare tiger cub has died at the Magnetic Hill Zoo more than a week after being born with three siblings at the New Brunswick facility. The zoo announced in a Facebook post that the young tiger died on Sunday despite efforts by her mother, Anya, and a veterinarian to help her survive. Source
  • Experts release new details about 300-year-old shipwreck discovered near Colombia

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BOSTON - A Spanish galleon laden with gold that sank to the bottom of the Caribbean off the coast of Colombia more than 300 years ago was found three years ago with the help of an underwater autonomous vehicle operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the agency disclosed for the first time. Source
  • China's lunar mission dubbed potentially historic by experts

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING - Experts say China's ambition to soft-land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon later this year faces considerable challenges but if successful, would put its space program in the forefront of one of the most important areas of lunar exploration. Source
  • Montreal researchers use willows to decontaminate polluted soil, groundwater

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONTREAL -- In an east-end Montreal neighbourhood, a polluted piece of former industrial land has become a garden. Willows sway in the breeze, creating a pleasant green space as the plants slowly reverse decades of industrial activity that has left the chemical-soaked soil of the Pointe-aux-Trembles site too contaminated to use. Source
  • Experts concerned about global rise of facial recognition technology

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Based on recent announcements by the likes of Facebook, Live Nation and a U.K. police force, Canadians may need to get used to the idea of facial recognition technology permeating their everyday lives. Source
  • Jupiter's backward-flying asteroid from another star system

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Just months after the discovery of our first known interstellar visitor, it turns out there's another asteroid from yet another star system residing in our cosmic club in plain view. Scientists reported Monday that this interstellar resident is an asteroid sharing Jupiter's orbit but circling in the opposite direction. Source
  • Extreme altruism: Why do some people help others at great risk to themselves?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Calvin Stein likes to help people, even if it means putting himself in danger to protect complete strangers. His altruism kicked into high gear on on July 9, 2016, when he ran straight into the path of runaway ponies to pick up a little girl and toss her to safety, only to get trampled himself. Source
  • Developer pushes back construction of Nova Scotia rocket launch site

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The start date for the construction of Canada's only commercial spaceport has been pushed back, a developer said following meetings at the proposed rocket launch site near a small fishing community on Nova Scotia's eastern shore. Source