Human Journey

Hubble Survey Finds Galaxies Far, Far Away


The image above, a composite of visible and infrared light images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the newfound locations of five small and incredibly ancient galaxies which are in the process of merging into a galactic cluster.

Located a staggering 13.1 billion light-years away, these galaxies were in existence a mere 600 million years after the Big Bang!

This collection of infant galaxies is now the furthest — and thus oldest — known protocluster in the Universe.

Galactic clusters are particularly significant as they are the largest structures in the Universe. (Our own Milky Way is part of a cluster known as the Local Group, which contains about 45 separate galaxies.)

The distant galaxies were discovered during a random sky survey. A team led by Michele Trenti of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in the UK used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to scan the sky in near-infrared, looking for distant sources of bright energy.

Such ancient galaxies cannot be seen in visible wavelengths, as their light has been stretched into the infrared portion of the spectrum by their ever-increasing distance.

“We need to look in many different areas because the odds of finding something this rare are very small,” said Trenti, “Typically, a region has nothing, but if we hit the right spot, we can find multiple galaxies.”

This news was announced today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas. Read the official NASA release here.

Credit: NASAESA, M. Trenti (University of Colorado, Boulder, and Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK), L. Bradley (STScI), and the BoRG team

I'm a graphic designer and space blogger, currently writing for National Geographic News, Discovery News, Universe Today and on my own blog, Lights in the Dark. The Universe is an amazing place and I'm going to tell you about it, one discovery at a time.
  • Jim Dwyer

    All I can say is WOW! The further we are able to see, the less we realize that we know.

  • Seth Bernstein

    “Farthest” not “furthest.” “Further” is a quantity or degree. Farther is the relation to physical distance.

    • My research on the subject has always come up with ambiguous results, and it’s often stated that the terms have become quite interchangeable in modern uses.

  • CLab

    if these small galaxies are 13.1b light years away then how far apart are they from one another and how was it deduced that they are in the process of forming a galactic cluster. how long before that happens?

    • It was stated that the galaxies are “as far apart” as those seen within the Virgo cluster. More spectrographic research is needed to determine if these distant galaxies are in fact gravitationally connected.

  • bob

    CLab, it’s already happened and they’re probably exploded away by now. Galaxies formed at the beginning of the universe have been gone for a long time now, and their remnants have formed into other stars and galaxies.

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  • Syed92

    How about Sharon, the most recently discovered Galaxy? The ignorant feels that he is the most knowledgible, isn’t it? There was a question posed to some one over 1400 years ago, for the position of earth with rest of the planets and stars. The reply was that it is “SMALLER THAN A PARTICLE OF SAND TO THE ARABIAN DESERT” Does that answer still hold true. Yes in my mind it does.

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