Hubble Telescope Discovers Youngest Galaxy in the Universe

First Posted: Feb 11, 2014 08:44 PM EST

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers discover one of the youngest galaxies in the universe, which has been labeled Abell2744_Y1. It is believed to have formed 650 million years after the Big Bang.

The international team that headed the research consisted of astronomers from the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands and La Laguna University in Spain. They studied and analyzed the Abell 2744 cluster of galaxies, and came across one that is 30 times smaller than the Milky Way, but produces 10 times the amount of stars.

The universe is thought to be 13.8 billion years old. Light from Abell2744_Y1 is estimated to take about 13 billion years to reach Earth, which would make it one of the most distant and youngest galaxies known to scientists. The discovery was part of a project called "Hubble Frontier Fields" which was launched by the Space Telescope Science Institute last month. The goal of the program is to observe and investigate six galaxy clusters with the world's most powerful space telescopes: Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra.

The Frontier Fields project also aims to find and study galaxies that formed closer toward the beginning of the universe. These most recent observations, as well as others to come, will be published in the next issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters.

Actually finding hte galaxy wasn't easy. Nicholas Laporte, an astronomer from the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands, was actually very surprised with the discovery. "This galaxy is very close to the edge of the Hubble image where the light is not strongly amplified," he said in this Astronomy Magazine article. "We are really lucky that we could find it in the small field of view of Hubble. In a related study led by Hakim Atek from EPFL in Lausanne, more galaxies are analyzed but none is more distant than Abell2744_Y1."

The search for these distant galaxies will continue for the next three years, which is when the Frontier Fields program is projected to end. With such a groundbreaking discovery this early in the works, expect to see more in the near future.

Visit this LiveScience article as well as this Astronomy Magazine article to read more about the Abell2744_Y1 galaxy as well as the Frontier Fields program.

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