Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Keck And Hubble Team Up To Find Farthest Known Galaxy In The Universe

illustration only
Kamuela - Feb 16, 2004
A team of astronomers may have discovered the most distant galaxy in the universe. Located an estimated 13 billion light-years away, the object is being viewed at a time only 750 million years after the big bang, when the universe was barely 5 percent of its current age.

The primeval galaxy was identified by combining the power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and CARA's W. M. Keck Telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. These great observatories got a boost from the added magnification of a natural "cosmic gravitational lens" in space that further amplifies the brightness of the distant object.

"We are looking at the first evidence of our ancestors on the evolutionary tree of the entire universe," said Dr. Frederic Chaffee, director of the W.

M. Keck Observatory, home to the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes that confirmed the discovery. "Telescopes are virtual time machines, allowing our astronomers to look back to the early history of the cosmos, and these marvelous observations are of the earliest time yet."

The newly discovered galaxy is likely to be a young galaxy shining during the end of the so-called "Dark Ages" -- the period in cosmic history which ended with the first galaxies and quasars transforming opaque, molecular hydrogen into the transparent, ionized universe we see today.

The new galaxy was detected in a long exposure of the nearby cluster of galaxies Abell 2218, taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys on board the Hubble Space Telescope. This cluster is so massive that the light of distant objects passing through the cluster actually bends and is amplified, much as a magnifying glass bends and magnifies objects seen through it.

Such natural gravitational "telescopes" allow astronomers to see extremely distant and faint objects that could otherwise not be seen. The extremely faint galaxy is so far away its visible light has been stretched into infrared wavelengths, making the observations particularly difficult.

"As we were searching for distant galaxies magnified by Abell 2218, we detected a pair of strikingly similar images whose arrangement and color indicate a very distant object," said California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomer Jean-Paul Kneib, who is lead author reporting the discovery in a forthcoming article in the Astrophysical Journal.

Analysis of a sequence of Hubble images indicate the object lies in between a redshift of 6.6 and 7.1, making it the most distant source currently known. However, long exposures in the optical and infrared taken with spectrographs on the 10-meter Keck telescopes suggests that the object has a redshift towards the upper end of this range, around redshift 7.

Redshift is a measure of how much the wavelengths of light are shifted to longer wavelengths. The greater the shift in wavelength toward the redder regions of the spectrum, the more distant the object is.

"The galaxy we have discovered is extremely faint, and verifying its distance has been an extraordinarily challenging adventure," said Dr. Kneib. "Without the magnification of 25 afforded by the foreground cluster, this early object could simply not have been identified or studied in any detail at all with the present telescopes available. Even with aid of the cosmic lens, the discovery has only been possible by pushing our current observatories to the limits of their capabilities!"

Using the combination of the high resolution of Hubble and the large magnification of the cosmic lens, the astronomers estimate that this object, although very small -- only 2,000 light-years across -- is forming stars extremely actively. However, two intriguing properties of the new source are the apparent lack of the typically bright hydrogen emission line and its intense ultraviolet light which is much stronger than that seen in star-forming galaxies closer by.

"The properties of this distant source are very exciting because, if verified by further study, they could represent the hallmark of a truly young stellar system, that ended the Dark Ages," added Dr. Richard Ellis, Steele Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, and a co-author in the article.

The team is encouraged by the success of their technique and plans to continue the search for more examples by looking through other cosmic lenses in the sky.

"Estimating the abundance and characteristic properties of sources at early times is particularly important in understanding how the universe reionized itself, thus ending the Dark Ages," said Mike Santos, a former Caltech graduate student, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK. "The cosmic lens has given us a first glimpse into this important epoch. We are now eager to learn more by finding further examples, although it will no doubt be challenging."

The Caltech team reporting on the discovery consists of Drs. Jean-Paul Kneib, Richard S. Ellis, Michael R. Santos and Johan Richard. Drs. Kneib and Richard also serve the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees of Toulouse, France. Dr. Santos also represents the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK.

The W.M. Keck Observatory is operated by the California Association for Research in Astronomy, a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Related Links
Keck Observatory
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Biggest Zoom Lens In Space Extends Hubble's Reach
Greenbelt - Jan 08, 2003
The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, has used a natural "zoom lens" in space to boost its view of the distant universe. Besides offering an unprecedented and dramatic new view of the cosmos, the results promise to shed light on galaxy evolution and dark matter in space.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.