NASA's Space Hubble Telescope has made an unprecedented discovery; an ancient galaxy approximately 13.2 billion years old.
Researchers from NASA say the object is likely the most distant ever seen in the universe. With its light traveling 13.2 billion years to reach the famous telescope, the ancient galaxy has beaten the previous record holder for distance traveled by 150 million years.
The dim object found by Hubble, NASA says, is a compact galaxy of blue stars which existed approximately 480 million years after the big bang. The discovery lends evidence to a new theory which states the rate of star birth in the early universe grew by a factor of 10 as the universe went from 480 million years to 650 million years old.
NASA continues to reach for new heights, and this latest Hubble discovery will deepen our understanding of the universe and benefit generations to come, said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement.
Bolden piloted the space shuttle mission which carried the Hubble to orbit 20 years ago. We could only dream when we launched Hubble... that it would have the ability to make these types of groundbreaking discoveries and rewrite textbooks.
NASA says the observation was made with the Wide Field Camera 3 only a few months after it was installed in the observatory during the last servicing mission to Hubble. After the discovery in the summer of 2009, a few months of research confirmed the object's existence.
The research indicates this is a compact galaxy of hot stars formed approximately 100-200 million years earlier from gas trapped in a pocket of dark matter. Observations further back in time will require the Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.
We're peering into an era where big changes are afoot, Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz, said in a statement. The rapid rate at which the star birth is changing tells us if we go a little further back in time we're going to see even more dramatic changes, closer to when the first galaxies were just starting to form.