Farthest Galaxy in the Universe Discovered

Artist rendering of z8_GND_5296
Artist rendering of z8_GND_5296
V. Tilvi, Texas A&M University; S.L. Finkelstein, University of Texas at Austin; C. Papovich, Texas A&M University; CANDELS Team and Hubble Space Telescope/NASA

While most of us are content "reaching for the stars" and "shooting for the moon," a team of scientists at W.M. Keck Observatory took their ambitions a million steps further by discovering what is now the farthest known galaxy on record.

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The newly identified galaxy, classified as z8_GND_5296, has been getting much attention since astronomers published their findings in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday.

While the record-breaking distance is certainly noteworthy, it's the information contained in this far away galaxy that has scientists and Big Bang theorists alike buzzing.

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The light from z8_GND_5296 took 13.1 billion years to reach Earth. To put that in perspective, the sun's light takes only eight minutes.

This means that this long-distance galaxy was formed only 700 billion years after the Big Bang, which may not seem like a small amount, but when compared to Earth's 13.8 billion, it's significant and will give scientists a better understanding on the early formation of galaxies.

Another aspect of z8_GND_5296 that scientists find interesting is that unlike the Milky Way galaxy, which produces roughly one or two solar masses a year, this newly discovered galaxy produces 300. This high rate of star formation is not uncommon in earlier galaxies but is a bit peculiar coming from a dwarf galaxy.

As many questions still remain about the evolution of the universe, scientists will continue to look further, relying on the paradox that with each discovery made in the future, another one is made in the past.

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